June 17, 2020 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Today, the U.S. Senate passed the historic Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422), which represents the single greatest commitment to increasing public access and advancing conservation in a lifetime, on a strong bipartisan vote of 73-25.
The Great American Outdoors Act will provide $9.5 billion over 5 years to address the crumbling infrastructure on America's public lands and waters. While the National Park Service will receive $6.5 billion in funding, the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) led a successful effort to secure the inclusion of $3 billion to repair and maintain public land infrastructure overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and U.S. Forest Service (USFS), which provides critically important recreational opportunities for America's sportsmen and women.
"The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation applauds Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. Today's vote demonstrates the bipartisan support for advancing conservation and increasing access for hunters and anglers," said CSF President Jeff Crane. "When signed into law, this bill will provide much needed support for public lands and waters and boost the already formidable outdoor economy. CSF extends our sincere thanks to the Senate Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (CSC) members that voted to support these priorities."
The inclusion of funding specifically for BLM, USFWS, and USFS lands and waters will ensure that Americans have the ability to access critically important hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting opportunities. Over 246 million acres, or 99%, of BLM lands are open to hunting and fishing while the USFS reports that 99% of the 193 million acres it administers are open to hunting and at least 99% of USFS administered rivers, streams, and lakes are open to fishing. Collectively, BLM, USFWS, and USFS annually support more than 25 million hunting days and nearly 45 million fishing days, highlighting the importance of these lands for America's sportsmen and women as well as the outdoor economy. Additionally, funding for maintenance backlog will create over 100,000 employment opportunities.
The Great American Outdoors Act also provides full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually. LWCF is one of the most successful and influential conservation programs in our nation's history. As a testament to the impact of LWCF, the program has completed a conservation, recreation, or access project in every single county in the country. S. 3422 also secures $15 million annually to increase public access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other forms of outdoor recreation.
"Years of bipartisan work have led to this moment and this historic opportunity for conservation," said CSC Member Sen. Cory Gardner (CO). "Today the Senate passed not only the single greatest conservation achievement in generations, but also a lifeline to mountain towns and recreation communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. I call on the House of Representatives to pass this bill without delay in order to provide jobs to the American people, economic stimulus to communities in need, and protections for the great American outdoors for future generations of Americans to cherish."
"I'm proud to have worked closely with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this historic conservation bill. Full and permanent funding for the LWCF is critical so our land management agencies can continue their legacy of conservation and growing opportunities for outdoor recreation. Addressing the daunting deferred maintenance needs in our national parks is long overdue and will ensure all of our public land management agencies can operate fully to maintain and protect the public lands we all cherish. In the Mountain State, we have a rich history and at the center of it is our love and appreciation for the outdoor playground we have been blessed with. The Great American Outdoors Act will guarantee the wild and wonderful corners of West Virginia are protected for generations to come," said CSC Vice-Chair Sen. Joe Manchin (WV). "I've seen firsthand the jobs that the outdoor recreation economy has brought to all areas of West Virginia. At a time of historic unemployment, there is simply no better time than now to pass this much needed legislation. This is a historic achievement for conservation and a testament to the strong, bipartisan work that is still possible when we put politics aside to do what is best for our country."
The Great American Outdoors Act heads to the House for further consideration. The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation strongly encourages sportsmen and women to contact their representatives in the House to urge quick passage of this long overdue legislation as-is without any changes by calling 202-224-3121 or by clicking here.
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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?Vote Here
- Increase the number of states with discounted license tailored to specific groups. (3.27%)
- Increase access to public lands. (26.12%)
- Provide more information for new participants. (2.86%)
- Provide hands on opportunities to improve skills and knowledge. (14.49%)
- Engage youth through hunter and conservation programs in schools. (45.71%)
- I feel we have enough sportsmen and women and do not believe R3 programs are necessary. (7.55%)