Press Release

Congress Passes Historic Conservation Legislation

07/23/2020

Gaithersburg, MD – The Izaak Walton League of America applauds the House of Representatives for passing the Great American Outdoors Act, which will fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address critical infrastructure maintenance backlogs on public lands across America. LWCF is our country’s greatest tool for expanding access to recreation on public lands, investing in critical conservation measures and strengthening the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy.

“Conservation victories as big as the Great American Outdoors Act do not come along very often,” said League Conservation Director Jared Mott. “It’s hard to overstate the impact that fully funding LWCF will have for protecting public lands and helping Americans enjoy all sorts of outdoor recreation.”

The Senate passed identical legislation earlier this year with a strong bipartisan vote of 73 to 25, and President Trump had signaled his support for the act’s movement through Congress. The Great American Outdoors Act is now on its way to the president’s desk, and the League eagerly awaits the bill’s official passage into law.

“LWCF projects can be found in every county of every state across the country,” said Mott. “That track record of success in the face of chronic underfunding really shows what this program can deliver to the American people now that it will be fully realized. As people are taking to the outdoors in record numbers in response to quarantines and COVID-19, the timing for finally fully funding LWCF couldn’t be better.”

LWCF is the primary mechanism through which local, state and federal agencies acquire and consolidate land for public use and benefit, including for outdoor recreation and to conserve natural resources. LWCF is funded through royalties from federal offshore leases of publicly owned oil and gas.

Under federal law, LWCF can distribute up to $900 million annually for conservation programs that indirectly offset the impacts of the offshore oil and gas operations. However, the program has typically received significantly smaller amounts. By providing full, permanent funding, Congress has recognized the extraordinary value that comes from the conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities generated by LWCF.

In addition to fully funding LWCF in perpetuity, the Great American Outdoors Act establishes the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Fund, which would direct up to $9.5 billion in unobligated mineral receipts over five years to address priority repairs in national parks and on other public lands. The National Park Service would receive 70 percent of LWCF proceeds; the U.S. Forest Service would receive 15 percent; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education schools would each receive five percent.

####

Founded in 1922, the Izaak Walton League of America protects America’s outdoors through education, community-based conservation, and promoting outdoor recreation.