The U.S. House on Wednesday afternoon passed the Great American Outdoors Act, aiming millions of dollars of federal offshore oil and gas royalties toward conservation programs across the states.
The bill provides a lump of money up front — up to $1.9 billion a year for five years to repair critical facilities and infrastructure in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreation areas and other popular areas.
And HR 1957 also permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund to the tune of $900 million each year going forward, also from offshore royalties, to invest in conservation and recreation opportunities across the country.
The bill passed the House by a 310-107 margin. The full Senate overwhelmingly passed a companion bill in June and President Trump has indicated on Twitter that he would sign the bill into law, a rare moment of bipartisanship in otherwise bitterly divided federal government.
The bill had the strong support of a diverse group of outdoor interests, from hunting and fishing groups to conservation and environmental organizations as well as outdoor oriented businesses.
“This remarkable conservation victory is one history won’t forget,” Howard Vincent, CEO of Pheasants Forever, said in a statement.
Kabir Green, director of federal affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the legislation “a bright spot for the country at a very difficult time. It’s an investment in jobs that will protect and maintain our public lands and waters — something that is all the more urgent as communities everywhere experience continuing fallout from the climate crisis.”
Since 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided more than $22 billion for projects, acquiring land for and protecting national parks, forests and wildlife refuges from development as well as funding recreation projects across the country.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested more than $245 million in Minnesota to protect outdoor recreation at urban parks and natural areas like the Saint Croix National Scenic River, Voyageurs National Park, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and the Chippewa and Superior national forests.
The fund also goes toward protecting ecologically significant areas in Minnesota, such as the Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and the Koochiching-Washington Forest Legacy Project.
From 2016 to 2018, the LWCF funded 17 projects in North Dakota, including improvements to Lakewood Beach on Devils Lake, upgrades to a softball complex in Hillsboro, an improvement project at Homme Dam in Walsh County, along with projects in Hatton and Park River.
The state Parks and Recreation Department administers the LWCF in North Dakota.