by Karen Mehall Phillips - Wednesday, August 5, 2020
It was a great day for those who have been tracking the status of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) as President Donald J. Trump picked up his presidential pen to sign the bill into law at a special White House ceremony Tuesday. “The GAOA will protect our country's natural treasures and promote recreation and conservation for generations …,” he said.
After the bipartisan bill passed the Senate in March with a vote of 73 to 25 and then the House in July with a vote of 310-107, it headed straight for President Trump’s desk. As we previously reported, the GAOA, in part, will permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), permitting federal land management agencies to acquire private land to protect it from development—some of which will benefit hunting—while paying for considerable deferred maintenance on national parks and other federal lands.
America’s newest federal law will provide $9.5 billion over the next five years to address the crumbling infrastructure on America's public lands and waters. Examples of funding include $6.5 billion for the National Park Service (NPS) and $3 billion to support the repair and maintenance of public land infrastructures managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), which provide access to public hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and other outdoor activities across millions of acres.
Once again, America’s hunters, shooters and anglers have much to be thankful for as the Trump administration and its Department of the Interior headed by Secretary Bernhardt continue to demonstrate a staunch commitment to investing in America’s future and expanding outdoor opportunities. As every American has seen, access to our public lands and waters provides dividends for our health and well-being and is more important than ever amid the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.
When it comes to President Trump’s support of GAOA to “keep America great” and moving forward, American hunters may recall his Mar. 3 tweet asking Congress to send him a bill that fully and permanently funds the LWCF and restores our National Parks. “When I sign it into law, it will be historic for our beautiful public lands,” he added.
In demonstrating an unprecedented level of dedication to increasing public land access and opportunities, front-and-center at the signing ceremony was Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. For months, Bernhardt has touted the need for this bill to “fix the aging infrastructure at our national parks and permanently fund conservation projects through the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” accomplishing what he explains previous presidents have sidestepped for decades.
For more good news, the USFWS, headed by Director Aurelia Skipwith, announced it was celebrating President Trump’s signing of GAOA by making today, Aug. 5, a fee-free day for those who want to visit a national wildlife refuge. Bernhardt went one better, declaring Aug. 4 “Great American Outdoors Day,” which will be celebrated every year by waiving the entrance fee to commemorate the signing of this legislation.
From an economic standpoint, CBS News was quick to report that GAOA supporters also explain the new law will create nearly 100,000 jobs. For a bit more on that in case you missed the DOI’s announcement in June, when it comes to just how much public lands support outdoor recreation, in 2019 the NPS alone welcomed more than 327 million visitors. The result was an economic impact of $41.7 billion and support for 340,500 jobs.
Please stay tuned to NRAHLF.org for news and updates on the issues impacting the future of hunters, hunting and wildlife conservation as the NRA continues to promote, defend and report on our cherished outdoor heritage.
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