July 27, 2020
By Walt Williams
A bill that would pump billions of dollars into outdoor conservation and public lands infrastructure has cleared Congress with bipartisan support, handing outdoor industry associations a policy victory at a time with most legislation unrelated to COVID-19 is making little headway.
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The Great American Outdoors Act would provide up to $9.5 billion over five years to address a backlog of maintenance projects in national parks and other facilities overseen by federal land and water agencies. It would also permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which directs money to conservation projects.
The Senate has previously approved the bill by a 73-25 vote, The Hill newspaper reported. The legislation cleared House of Representatives on July 22 with 81 Republicans joining 229 Democrats in voting in favor of the act. President Donald Trump has indicated he would sign the bill when it arrives at his desk.
Multiple outdoor industry groups united to advocate for the act by focusing on their members’ collective economic contributions. Those same groups thanked lawmakers in a video posted on the website of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, a coalition of 30 associations and other organizations representing a wide range of industries and outdoor recreation users.
“The outdoor recreation industry is ready to usher in the next golden age of the outdoor experiences after the House passed, in bipartisan fashion, the Great American Outdoors Act,” ORR Executive Director Jessica Wahl said in a statement. "GAOA is a major 21st-century achievement and a reminder that when all sides work together, we can accomplish great things for the outdoors and the nation.”
Craig Kirby, president of the RV Industry Association, called the bill “the best thing to happen to our community in six decades.”
“Twenty million RVers across the country depend on our iconic state and federal lands for recreation, conservation, enjoyment, and overnight camping,” he said. “Enactment of this milestone legislation will mean increased recreation access for all no matter where they live, allowing more Americans to find fulfillment in living an active outdoor lifestyle.”
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