President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed the Great American Outdoors Act, billed as the largest-ever investment into America’s national parks and public lands.
The bipartisan package, which will create more than 100,000 infrastructure-related jobs, was supported by 850 conservation and sportsmen groups and was characterized this week by the White House as "the single greatest American conservation achievement since the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt."
The move will address the long-delayed maintenance backlog on public land, one that has 5,500 miles of road, 17,000 miles of trails, and 24,000 buildings in what is described as "critical need" of repair at wildlife parks, national forests, historic battlefields, and national monuments. The bill passed the Republican-controlled Senate 73-25 in June then was greenlighted 310–107 last month by the Democrat-controlled U.S. House, sending it to the White House for signature.
"After decades of abandonment and neglect, we’re once again taking care of America’s historic sites, lush forests, towering mountains, windswept — and beautiful windswept prairies, and precious wetlands and wildlife," said Trump at a signing ceremony that included National Park officials as well as representatives from sporting and conservation groups.
The Great American Outdoors Act provides up to $10 billion for delayed maintenance projects, repairs, and upgrades, drawn from oil and gas lease revenue, not taxpayer funds. Additionally, it provides $900 million a year in guaranteed funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The new law also sets aside $15 million annually to increase public access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other forms of outdoor recreation.
The Congressional Sportsman Foundation says that federal public lands host 25 million hunting days each year.
“This is a proud moment for the firearm industry which supported this legislation to see it passed into law by the Trump administration which has kept the promise that public lands and waters belong to all of America’s sportsmen and women,” said Joe Bartozzi, National Shooting Sports President and Chief Executive Officer. “The Great American Outdoors Act is bold in its scope and historic in the guarantee that public lands and waters will be accessible to America’s conservation-minded hunters and recreational target shooters.”
The bill has been floating around Washington in one form or another for decades.
“Last night, I added it up: 5 presidents, 9 secretaries of the interior, and 10 secretaries of agriculture have worked on legislation to accomplish fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, or enhancing our nation’s parks by addressing in the backlog,” said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt at the White House.