This legislation will permanently fund the care and maintenance of the country’s state and local parks.
Today, in a bipartisan vote, the The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation that will stimulate the outdoor recreation industry and support the thousands of small and large businesses that comprise the growing industry and create more safe and sustainable recreation access for all Americans. The legislation passed in the Senate with a bi-partisan vote of 73-25.
The bill, which passed the Senate last month, guarantees mandatory, permanent financing of the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million a year - the amount it is authorized to receive from offshore oil and gas revenues – not tax dollars.
The bill also earmarks $1.9 billion annually for the next five years to deal with $20 billion in maintenance backlogs on public lands administered by the the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education. These funds will, among other priorities, help improve boating recreation infrastructure for parks, forests, wildlife refuges and more.
“In the wake of this economic crisis, supporting conservation and the local economies in Georgia and beyond is more important now than ever before,” said Ben Speciale, president of Yamaha’s U.S. Marine Business Unit, based in Kennesaw.“That’s exactly what the Great American Outdoors Act accomplishes, and we applaud Congress for passing this historic legislation.”
Outdoor recreation is a major part of Georgia’s economy. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation accounts for 144,000 jobs in Georgia and generates $12.3 billion annually.
“With more Americans flocking to boating in the era of social distancing, the Great American Outdoors Act is the shot in the arm we need to continue delivering the memorable experiences and significant economic impact our industry provides, including more than 600 businesses and 15,000 jobs in Georgia,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “We applaud Congress for coming together in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner on legislation that ensures both local economies and families can reap the benefits of outdoor recreation activities for generations to come.”
LWCF has invested over $312 million in Georgia to protect lands and waters and create spaces for people to get outside. The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Chattooga Wild and Scenic River, Cumberland Island National Seashore, Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and, most recently, Sansavilla Wildlife Management Area are among just some of the places in Georgia that have benefited from this critical program.
Passage of GAOA will significantly increase funding for critical outdoor recreation projects in Georgia. This year, LWCF funding could expand fishing, paddling and hunting opportunities in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The area is within 90 minutes of the Atlanta metro area, where the current population of almost 6 million people is expected to double within the next fifteen years. Funds could support projects along the Etowah River, a highly scenic corridor and part of one of the most popular river canoe trails in Georgia, and within the forest’s Cohutta Wildlife Management Area.
The bill now heads to the White House for final passage into law. The President has 10 days to sign or veto it.