The United States’ open spaces scored a massive political win on Wednesday. A bipartisan conservation bill drafted by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado was approved by the US Senate, with 73 votes in favor and only 25 against. If the bill becomes law, it will provide $900 million annually to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and a total of $9.5 billion to address maintenance backlogs on the country’s public lands. Conservation groups in the American West had been pushing for such a measure for years.
The bill has been dubbed the Great American Outdoors Act. Here’s how it breaks down.
First and foremost, it will provide annual funding totaling $900 million to the LWCF, which has only received its full $900 million stipend twice since 1964. The funding, slated to come from royalties on oil and gas profits, will now be fully granted on a permanent basis.
The $9.5 billion for public lands will be divided over five years, at $1.9 billion per year. Seventy percent of that revenue will be dedicated to improving infrastructure and addressing delayed maintenance issues at national parks. Gardner expects the measure to create up to 100,000 jobs, largely in areas deriving much of their income from outdoor tourism that has been significantly reduced due to the coronavirus pandemic.
President Trump has indicated he will sign the bill into law if it passes in the Democratic-led House of Representatives. According to Politico, the bill appears to have strong backing in the House, though the date of a forthcoming vote is not yet known.
“I hope, following our action, that the House will take it up and pass it quickly. The president has already said he is eager to sign it. We should not let this historic opportunity pass us by,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to the floor ahead of the vote.