Inside the Great American Outdoors Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, the U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, a seminal piece of legislation that permanently provides $900 million in oil and gas revenues for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. That funding is just a portion of the overall bill, which is drawing headlines for providing billions to maintain public lands like national parks; but the act also has crucial implications for the fishing industry like those listed below.

National Park Maintenance – The act includes up to $9.5 billion over five years to address infrastructure at America’s national parks, which have already accrued $12 billion in deferred maintenance costs. That funding will help repair and maintain infrastructure like trails and facilities.

Land and Water Conservation Fund – The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established in 1965 to provide funds and matching grants to federal, state and local governments for the acquisition of land and water. It’s chief source of funding is the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which regulates offshore oil and gas drilling. However, the fund also generates income via taxes on motorboat fuel and the sale of federal real estate. In 2019, the fund was permanently authorized—but not permanently funded—by Congress. However, this week’s vote serves to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The funds will help anglers and hunters access more than 430 million acres of public land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service, in addition to national park lands.

In the past, money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been used to create bike paths, boat ramps and even baseball diamonds. According to the Department of the Interior, every single county in the United States has benefited from at least one of the 41,999 projects aided by the fund since 1965.

Endangered Species Protection – The fund also provides $394 million in funding for work with private landowners, conservation organizations and other partners to protect and conserve the habitat of threatened and endangered species.

100,000 Jobs — It’s estimated that the Great American Outdoors Act will result in approximately 100,000 jobs during a pivotal economic period for Americans.

A $778 Billion Boon — The sportfishing industry constitutes about a $35 billion slice of a $778 billion national pie baked by outdoor recreation as a whole.

Industry Response

Leadership across the outdoor industry has praised the Great American Outdoors Act. Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership said, “It fulfills a promise we made 55 years ago to create a national legacy of investing in our natural resources. It also fixes our roads, trails, boat ramps, and recreational spaces so future generations can enjoy them. And it helps put Americans back to work through conservation at a time when unemployment rates are at near record levels.”

Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, said the bill will, “provide much needed support for public lands and waters and boost the already formidable outdoor economy.”

American Sportfishing Association Vice President of Government Affairs Mike Leonard said the fishing industry played a key role in its passage. “Anglers across the country played a significant role in making sure the recreational fishing community’s voice was heard in support of this bill,” said Leonard. “Through Keep America Fishing, thousands of emails were sent to the Senate, reaching 96 Senators total, urging them to vote yes on this bill. Our community’s voice will continue to be needed as this bill now moves to the House of Representatives.”

The Great American Outdoors Act is expected to receive House and presidential approval in the coming days.