Monday, July 6, 2020

Great American Outdoors Act Passes U.S. Senate

The Great American Outdoors Act (S.3422) (GAOA) was Introduced in the Senate, March 9th 2020. The Bill establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to support Deferred Maintenance Projects on Federal Lands.

For FY2021-FY2025, there shall be Deposited into the Fund an Amount equal to 50% of All Federal Revenues from the Development of Oil, Gas, Coal, or Alternative or Renewable Energy on Federal Lands and Waters. Deposited Amounts must Not exceed $1.9 billion for any Fiscal Year.

The Fund must be used for Priority Deferred Maintenance Projects in Specified Systems that are Administered by:

- The National Park Service
- The Forest Service
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- The Bureau of Land Management
- The Bureau of Indian Education

The Government Accountability Office must Report on the Effect of the Fund in Reducing the Backlog of Priority Deferred Maintenance Projects for the Specified Agencies. The Bill Would Fully And Permanently Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The President shall annually report to Congress specified details regarding the allocation of funds to the LWCF. Congress may provide for alternate allocations using specified procedures.

June 17th, 2020, marked a Critical Milestone in efforts to Strengthen our Country’s Sustainable Initiatives. GAOA Passed with overwhelming Bipartisan Support in the U.S. Senate by a Vote of 73-25. More than 60 Members Co-Sponsored the Legislation, including New York Senators Chuck Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D).

The GAOA combines Two Major Conservation Bills:

- S.500 (the Restore Our Parks Act), which seeks to address the Maintenance Backlog on Public Lands.

- S.1081, which Permanently allocates $900 million a year to the LWCF.

Altogether, the GAOA is intended to provide $9.5 billion for Open Space and Parks, including $1.9 billion for the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund for FY 2021-2025.

According to the LWCF Coalition, New York State has received more than $348.4 million in Funding over the past Five Decades for Programs that support Recreational Hunting, Fishing, and other Outdoor Activities, and also Protect Places such as the Gateway National Recreation Area, Sterling Forest, and Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge.

In addition, Grants under the LWCF have Secured Sustainable Forestry Operations in an effort to Conserve Wildlife Habitats and Improve Air and Water Quality. LWCF State Assistance Grants have further supported Hundreds of Projects across New York’s State and Local Parks, from the Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn to the Confluence Park and Chenango River Promenade in Binghamton.

Under the Bill, the National Parks Service would receive the Majority of Funds (70%) while the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service would each receive 10%. The Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education are set to each Collect 5% and the Remainder of the Funding will be put towards Reducing Maintenance Backlog as well as Incorporating other Land Agencies to carry out the Goals of this Legislation.

Now more than ever, we see the emphasis on having Access to Outdoor Recreation including: Parks, Green Spaces, and Trails. Within the GAOA Bill, dedicated Funding towards the LWCF is set to address Preservation needs in National Parks, Protect Natural Spaces, Expand Outdoor Activity, as well as Create Jobs Nationwide. Outdoor Recreation in the U.S. contributes to over $8 billion in Annual Economic Output, supporting well over 7.6 Million Jobs. A recent National Park Service Study found that the National Parks Restoration Portion of this Bill will Support an Average of 40,300 Direct Jobs and 100,100 Direct and Indirect Jobs over the next Five years.

The GAOA establishes a Critical Balance of Expanding Access to Outdoor Recreational Opportunities for All Communities while Conserving Public Lands and Waters.

Next is the House hopefully without Amendments. A Vote is currently Scheduled for later in July.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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