June 4, 2020 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) continues to gain momentum in Congress after a recent announcement by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) member and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) that the Senate will soon take up GAOA, likely next week. Earlier today, a House companion of GAOA was introduced by a number of Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) members.
Prior to bill introduction, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and partners including the National Wildlife Federation, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Delta Waterfowl, Mule Deer Foundation, the Boone and Crockett Club, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, led the effort to secure the inclusion of funding to restore the crumbling infrastructure on public lands and waters that are most important to sportsmen and women in the Great American Outdoors Act.
As a result of these efforts, GAOA will provide $9.5 billion over 5 years to address the deferred maintenance backlog on federal public lands and waters with roughly $3 billion set aside to restore the infrastructure on hundreds of millions of acres that provide access and opportunity for America’s sportsmen and women. In total, our federal public land management agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, face nearly $20 billion in deferred maintenance backlog that will be addressed by GAOA.
Furthermore, the Great American Outdoors Act will provide permanent and dedicated funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually, building on the success of S. 47, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which permanently authorized LWCF, but did not provide any funding. GAOA will also ensure that $15 million of LWCF funding is set aside for the purpose of increasing access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other forms of outdoor recreation on public lands and waters.
“The resources provided through this legislation represent one of the most significant contributions ever made to addressing the federal lands maintenance backlog and increasing public access for sportsmen and women,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “This legislation also serves as a way to stimulate the economy and to create new employment opportunities through shovel-ready jobs during a time when Americans need them most.”
The Great American Outdoors Act in the Senate (S. 3422) is led by CSC Member Sen. Cory Gardner (CO), CSC leaders Martin Heinrich (NM), Joe Manchin (WV) and John Boozman (AR), along with nearly 30 other CSC members. The House bill is led by CSC Member Rep. Joe Cunningham (SC) and is cosponsored by CSC members Representatives TJ Cox (CA), Jeff Fortenberry (NE), Mike Simpson (ID), and Xochitl Torres Small (NM), among others.
This legislation comes at a time that is most critical for sportsmen and women, and when more people are realizing the value of the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic while participating in the #ResponsibleRecreation campaign.
CSF is working to generate even stronger support for this legislation to ensure this bill quickly passes the Senate and the House on a strong bipartisan vote.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?