U.S. House approves Great American Outdoors Act; Bipartisan bill fully funds LWCF, boosts park repair funding

The Nature Conservancy
Special to the Lake Okeechobee News

TALLAHASSEE — The U.S. House of Representatives voted 310-107 this week to approve the Great American Outdoors Act, which would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and make critical investments in our national park system and other public lands. The bill, which passed the U.S. Senate last month, now goes to the president for his promised signature.

“Florida’s iconic landscapes are a cornerstone of our state’s identity. The Great American Outdoors Act recognizes the vast benefits of nature, in focus now more than ever, with an ongoing commitment to funding conservation. The Aact will have great impact to our communities and economy, and will be invaluable to our public lands — places like the world-renowned Everglades National Park and other unique natural areas from the Keys to North Florida,” said Temperince Morgan, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida.

“We’re grateful for the strong bipartisan support of Florida’s U.S. Representatives Bilirakis, Buchanan, Castor, Crist, Demings, Deutch, Diaz-Balart, Frankel, Hastings, Lawson, Mast, Mucarsel-Powell, Murphy, Shalala, Soto, Wasserman-Schultz and Wilson for this historic legislation.”

The bill combines two conservation proposals that each have strong bipartisan support. The first would provide full and permanent funding of $900 million each year for LWCF, an amount derived from offshore oil and gas revenues — not tax dollars. A recent economic analysis shows that every $1 million invested in LWCF could support between 16 and 30 jobs. Additionally, research on the impact of the LWCF shows that $1 spent generates $4 in economic value from natural resource goods and services alone.

The second part of the bill would invest $1.9 billion annually for the next five years toward maintenance in national parks, other public lands and at the Bureau of Indian Education. Over $20 billion in direct visitor spending is disseminated each year to local communities adjacent to national park sites. A recent National Park Service study of maintenance investments in this legislation found that it will support an average of 40,300 direct jobs and a total of 100,100 direct and indirect jobs over the next five years.

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