If the barrage of emails to hit my inbox is any indication, President Trump’s signing of the Great American Outdoors Act on Tuesday is the biggest breakthrough for conservation and outdoor recreation in a long time.

Conservation groups wasted little time in trumpeting the legislation, which provides billions of dollars to address the maintenance backlog in national parks and permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million annually.

Funded by proceeds from offshore oil and gas development revenues, the LWCF has only received its full allocation a couple of times since its inception in 1965. Congress instead has diverted the funding for other uses. Proceeds from the fund benefit conservation and recreation programs nationwide and require a 50% match from local partners.

In North Dakota, permanent LWCF authorization means the state will receive nearly $2.9 million annually for conservation and outdoor recreation projects, a 52% increase from fiscal year 2020, according to the state Parks and Recreation Department, which administers the program in North Dakota.

The U.S. House and Senate both passed the Great American Outdoors Act by large margins earlier this summer.

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At a time when bipartisan cooperation is a rarity, the Great American Outdoors Act is an especially welcome turn of events. Adam Putnam, CEO of Ducks Unlimited, called the legislation “one of the great conservation achievements of our lifetime,” a boost to an outdoor recreation industry that generates $887 billion annually and supports 7.6 million American jobs.

“Now that it’s the law of the land, we look forward to working with our partners at federal and state agencies, and in the conservation community, to help deliver this law’s ambitious promises to improve the American landscape for generations to come,” Putnam said in a statement.

North Dakota Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven, both Republicans who supported the bill, also weighed in on the significance of the legislation and what it means for North Dakota.

Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., voted against the legislation in the House.

“President Trump signed historic legislation to invest in our national parks and public lands,” Cramer said in a statement. “Places like Theodore Roosevelt National Park provide the American people with an irreplaceable experience, and I am thankful we have a president who prioritizes the preservation of these national treasures. I look forward to working with the administration on implementing this bill.”

Hoeven highlighted the Restore Our Parks Act legislation, one component of the bill along with permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Restore Our Parks Act will provide up to $1.9 billion annually – $9.5 billion over the next five years – for facilities and projects administered by five federal agencies: The National Park Service, the U.S., Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Education.

The bulk of that funding, about 70%, will help address maintenance backlogs in the National Park Service, Hoeven said, including about $50 million of deferred maintenance in North Dakota, consisting mostly of road repairs.

“The Restore Our Parks Act provides critical support to our national parks and will help to ensure these facilities can continue to safely serve visitors for years to come,” Hoeven said in a statement. “That is not only important for the preservation of our history and landscapes, but it will also strengthen our parks’ contributions to local economies across the country, just as the Theodore Roosevelt National Park does in North Dakota.”

Here are some other comments that followed the president’s signing of the bill.

  • “We sincerely appreciate the work of both the House and Senate Democratic and Republican leadership for working across the aisle to pass this transformative piece of conservation legislation, as well as the president for signing it. Generations of sportsmen and women will remember this day as a critical moment in history.”

    Scott Petrie, chief executive officer of Delta Waterfowl

  • “Hunters and anglers across the nation have a reason to celebrate today. The Great American Outdoors Act is the product of years of hard work by all segments of the outdoor community, from hunters and anglers to hikers and kayakers. To all the lawmakers who carried the water on Capitol Hill, we say thank you, and we thank President Trump for signing the bill into law. Today is proof that conservation stands above partisanship and political rancor.”

    Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

  • “This landmark law will make a difference in national parks and public lands across the country. Our elected leaders have listened to local people who recognize that investing in these treasured places will yield a high rate of return for communities that depend on park and recreation tourism.”

    Marcia Argust, Restore American Parks campaign project director for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

  • “The Great American Outdoors Act’s passage guarantees our future generations will have public places to hunt, fish and recreate. It’s a difficult time, but we have so much to be proud of today.”

    Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to bdokken@gfherald.com.

Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken