Great American Outdoors Act heads to president’s desk

Trump is expected to sign the bill, which was passed by the House of Representatives on July 22, into law.

Editor’s Note: Pres. Trump officially signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law after this story went to press.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A piece of federal legislation aiming to protect recreational fishing opportunities on public lands made it out of the U.S. House of Representatives, July 22; the bill, known as the Great American Outdoors Act, now makes its way to Pres. Donald J. Trump’s desk.

The Great American Outdoors Act, which was approved by the U.S. Senate on June 17, would permanently keep revenues flowing into the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Representatives supported the Great American Outdoors Act by a 310-107 vote.

The fund, according to a statement released by the American Sportfishing Association, “has helped provided access to recreational areas, trails and waterways throughout the nation … for the past five decades.”

Money from the Great American Outdoors Act would also be used to “improve the deteriorating infrastructure of our national parks and forests,” according to the American Sportfishing Association.

“Public lands are critical for providing recreational fishing opportunities throughout the nation,” American Sportfishing Association President Glenn Hughes said, in a released statement. “The Great American Outdoors Act will provide long overdue funding to benefit current and future lands at the local, state and federal levels. Enactment of this historic legislation will benefit recreational fishing, and outdoor recreation in general, for decades to come.”

An article published by Pew Charitable Trusts stated passage – and, ultimately, signing – of the Great American Outdoors Act was necessary to address deteriorating elements of the National Park System.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund … [is] an important tool for preserving access to public lands and providing resources to communities for recreation facilities,” the Pew Charitable Trusts article stated. “The outdoor recreation industry, including the hiking, boating, camping equipment, outfitter, motorcyclist and sportsmen sectors, contributes $778 billion in national economic output – or 2.2 percent of U.S. domestic product – each year and generates 5.2 million American jobs.

“The hunting and fishing industries in the U.S. are supported by 49 million sportsmen and sportswomen; these businesses employ 1.3 million Americans and contribute $200 billion to the national economy each year,” the article continued.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established in 1964 and is funded by offshore fossil fuel revenues. The fund uses up to $900 million, annually, to preserve natural areas and water resources, according to news reports. 

Another element of the legislation will reportedly set aside $9.5 billion for maintenance backlogs at our national parks; the set aside would cover roughly 80 percent of the maintenance needed. 

Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia and Steve Daines, R-Montana, spearheaded the Great American Outdoors Act in the upper legislative house; Rep. Joh Cunningham, D-South Carolina, led the bill through the House of Representatives.

The American Sportfishing Association stated Trump is likely to sign the bill into law.

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