President Donald J. Trump has signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law. The bill guarantees $900 million per year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and sets aside $9.5 billion over the next five fiscal years to address maintenance and repair backlogs in National Park Service and other public land agency facilities.
The funding will be provided by royalties paid by oil and gas, coal, and renewable energy companies to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
The LWCF was created in 1965. It promised to dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars per year from oil and gas royalties to acquire new federal park lands and to support state and local park development. Actual appropriations have generally fallen far short of that contemplated level. A Ducks Unlimited report indicated that, before the authorization of LWCF expired in 2018, it had been fully funded only twice in 54 years.
The LWCF has financed the purchase of at least seven million acres of public land, either for outright ownership by governments or as easements, over the years.
The measure passed the Senate by a 73-25 vote in June and the House of Representatives by a vote of 310-107, almost all majority Democrats and about half of minority Republicans voting in favor of it. Nevertheless, Trump invited only GOP legislators to the bill signing ceremony at the White House.
According to a report by the Associated Press, the Great American Outdoors Act is “the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century.”