The Great American Outdoors Act Passed! So What?

If you have connections with any conservation organizations, you may have seen some excitement over the House recently passing the Great American Outdoors Act. It had already been passed by the Senate, so all that’s left is a signature, which hopefully by the time you are reading this, has already happened.

Maybe you don’t care about all the inside baseball that it took to get it passed, but maybe you are wondering what all the hubbub is about. Why does it really matter?

First off, it really is a big deal. But you don’t need to trust me on that, as Hal Herring of Field & Stream thinks so, too.

So, what is in the GAOA? Well it has two major parts.

First, it created a dedicated fund to help pay for maintenance backlogs at land agencies, like the National Park Service and Forest Service. That might not sound like a lot, but, because of partisan budget cuts, the agencies have been squeezed to the point of breaking. They have billions of dollars’ worth of backlogged projects that are needed for regular maintenance. I used to work for the USFS out west and saw that first hand.

But that’s out west, and, we are New England. So, what is in this bill that I should care about? Well, besides all of us wanting to be able to use a functional toilet at a Park Service visitor center on a family vacation to Yellowstone…there is what I consider even a bigger win in it for all of America.

This brings us to the second item: full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

My dad and I hitting the shad run last year at an area that was almost certainly positively impacted by federal dollars.

The LWCF uses taxes from energy extraction on public lands (OUR public lands) and puts them towards conservation, land protection, and access projects; so, it doesn’t cost us extra personal taxes. Nearly every county in every state in the country has gotten funds for projects. These can range from city parks and pool projects to bigger forest and river type of projects.

Here is a partial of the rivers (not even including ponds and small streams protected by bigger projects) that have received LWCF dollars in our area (full list here):

  • MA
    • Swift River
    • Mill River
    • Connecticut River
    • Beaver Brook
    • Danvers River
    • Parker River
  • VT
    • Bennington River
    • Battenkill River
    • Connecticut River
    • West River
    • Saxtons River
  • CT
    • Farmington River
    • Tunxis State Forest
    • Leadmine Brook Area
    • Connecticut River

And, that is just a tiny list. I just got tired of looking through all the different projects that have already been completed in New England. And, there is plenty more in these states and the ones I haven’t listed.

So, if this is what has already happened, why does the bill matter? Before now, the funding wasn’t dedicated to this. Basically, the energy tax dollars went into a general pool and had to be fought to be appropriated every year towards projects in the LWCF; almost never was the full allotment given to the fund for our benefit, but was shunt off to other pet projects of congressional members.

Now, we have full dedicated funding for conservation. Between the two major components of this bill, we are putting Americans to work and getting conservation dollars on the ground.

Even if you didn’t call in to ask you representatives to vote for the bill before, please call them and thank them for voting in favor of it. These fights for us cost political capital, and it isn’t easy.

Victories like these should be praised. This has been called the conservation bill of a generation. I agree that it has been, but I think that it doesn’t need to take so long to have good investments in America and its people. This should just be a warm up before we knock it out of the park.


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8 thoughts on “The Great American Outdoors Act Passed! So What?

  1. You are absolutely right that it is a big deal and thanks for writing about it. Just like Pittman-Robertson the key is dedicated funding!

  2. I share your views on the significance of this law. It’s a big win for clean water and our parks. As anglers we have to protect, through policy, our waters.

    1. Policy is super important and often underappreciated by sportsmen, but that is starting to change. I can’t blame us though. I generally just want to be left alone in the woods, not haggling about policy!

  3. Thanks for the info on the Act. i’m embarassed to say I knew nothing about it or the vote, but, I’m certainly glad to see that it passed. The environment (especially non-hunting recreation) can at times be a thing that both parties can get behind. Thanks to any and all who were active in the passing of this Act.

    1. It’s a hectic world and a busy time, no need to have any embarrassment; it is hard to keep up with everything. I’m glad I was able to share it!

  4. Thanks for sharing your excitement and breaking it down for us readers. Everyone stands to gain something from this bill. Hopefully it will ensure jobs for many, fish for more, and opportunities for everyone to connect with nature!

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