House Passes Historic Great American Outdoors Act

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From Backcountry Hunters & Anglers:

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives decisively voted 310-107 today to advance the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan bill Backcountry Hunters & Anglers calls a “once in a generation” opportunity to fund conservation and access in the United States. The House vote sends the bill on to the president, who has indicated his willingness to sign it into law.

The Great American Outdoors Act, or GAOA, achieves a longtime goal of BHA and others in ensuring full and dedicated funding at $900 million annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a popular and highly successful program that funds conservation and public access projects across the United States. GAOA also addresses critical maintenance backlogs on public lands and waters at $9.5 billion over five years. The Senate passed the bill in June.

BHA joined other hunter and angler organizations, conservationists, business owners and congressional leaders in commending the House vote.

“Today, we the people made history,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “Together, we made good on a promise from 1964, permanently dedicating the revenues intended for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and made an overdue investment in some of our most critical fish and wildlife habitat. The Great American Outdoors Act is a momentous achievement in the name of our most prized American landscapes and outdoors legacy. It’s a once in a generation piece of conservation and public access legislation that will have impacts for generations to come.

“Millions of Americans can claim this victory,” continued Tawney. “BHA volunteers and members who made phone calls and sent emails to our elected officials, outdoor advocates who raised their voices, businesses who leveraged their influence, and congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle who worked tirelessly in support of the bill – together we created the momentum that drove this forward, and together we own this moment. Never ever underestimate the power of individual voices. We proved today that democracy is still ruled by the people.”

Members of Congress affirmed the importance of the Great American Outdoors Act.

“It is an honor to lead the effort in the House to pass the Great American Outdoors Act,” said Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC). “Today, the House passed bipartisan legislation that will deliver jobs to communities across the country, protect recreational access, preserve historic sites and restore aging national park and public land infrastructure. For folks in the Lowcountry, this bill will protect some of our most beloved and treasured places, from the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, Hunting Island State Park and the ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge to the Pitt Street Park and Folly Beach Boardwalk. I look forward to President Trump swiftly signing this legislation into law so that we can protect access to the great outdoors for generations of Americans to come.”

“I am thrilled to see this legislation on its way to President Trump’s desk where he will sign the bill into law,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID). “Not only does this bill support hundreds of thousands of jobs, but it protects and maintains our public lands for generations that aren’t even born yet. I grew up on the doorstep of Yellowstone, and so many communities in Idaho benefit from the outdoor access and the economic impacts of our public lands. The Great American Outdoors Act ensures that projects are vetted by Congress annually, funds the programs without using taxpayer funds, and continues important state-based projects like greenbelts, parks and community pools. Bottom line, this bill is great for Idaho and public lands across this country. I am grateful for the support of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers for helping us get this important legislation passed.”

“I am thrilled the House has passed the Great American Outdoors Act,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). “This bipartisan, bicameral and landmark legislation is the most important conservation package in years and will do incredible things for our economy, our public lands and our country. The LWCF is a vital program that protects public lands and contributes millions to our economy, and I am pleased to see that it is now permanently authorized and funded. This landmark package also provides funding to address the large maintenance backlog in our parks, which will allow visitors to enjoy them for years to come. I’d like to thank members of Congress, advocacy groups, and everyone else who fought hard to see this package head to the president’s desk to become law.”

“As an avid hunter and sometime angler, my father is a lifetime member of BHA and has passed on his passion for our public lands to my sisters and me,” said Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ). “We brought together our colleagues to make a landmark investment in our open spaces so that Americans can continue to share and experience the beauty of our country. The Great American Outdoors Act will help protect New Jersey’s natural resources and public lands for generations to come, and I thank BHA and all the organizations who worked alongside us to champion this legislation.”

“Today’s passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is a victory for our public lands, for our local economies and for our communities,” said Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH). “With permanent funding for the LWCF and steps to address the maintenance backlog, we’ve guaranteed that future generations will be able to enjoy the great outdoors.  I’m grateful to everyone who has been a part of this effort, including the members of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, and look forward to the president signing this into law.”

“Our public lands are a place for family gatherings, exploration, learning and economic opportunity. They foster healthy economies, healthy ecosystems and healthy people,” said Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK). “Each year in Oklahoma, outdoor recreation supports 97,000 jobs statewide and generates billions of dollars in wages and consumer spending. I am excited to see this historic legislation to protect our public lands and permanently fund the LWCF pass Congress with bipartisan support. We must protect our great outdoors for this and future generations to enjoy.”

“The Act makes permanent the Land and Water Conservation Fund to support conservation and recreational opportunities across the nation,” Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE). “For years we have endured a backlog of necessary maintenance at our national parks.  An investment in this public work is important.  Providing certainty for the future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund is a great boost to communities eager for innovative conservation initiatives.”

Conservation leaders joined in applauding the bill’s advance.

“This remarkable conservation victory is one history won’t forget!” remarked Howard Vincent, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever president and CEO. “It was accomplished because our community stuck together – BHA, PF and QF members and many, many others rallied around this effort and kept the pressure on Congress. 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.”

“Sportsmen and women who have spoken out for years in support of the LWCF and against the chronic underfunding of our public lands agencies should be very proud to be a part of this historic win for public lands, fish and wildlife habitat, and our hunting and fishing access,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “These issues don’t make the front page every day, which is all the more reason to celebrate the willingness of our lawmakers to prioritize the Great American Outdoors Act with a spirit of urgency and bipartisanship. For Americans who are increasingly turning to the outdoors for solace and enjoyment during this pandemic, this vote confirms that our natural resources are worthy of robust investment, especially at a time when conservation and access improvement projects can create much-needed jobs.”

“Nearly every county in every state has benefitted in some way from LWCF funds,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “Brook trout in Maine, wild rainbows on the Upper Delaware, lake trout on the Boundary Waters – all have benefitted from LWCF funding. LWCF has made possible access to fabled fisheries such as the Letort Spring Run in Pennsylvania and Black Earth Creek, the Gateway to the Driftless Area. Less discussed, but equally important, is the funding in the bill that will allow our partners at the Park Service, Forest Service and BLM to begin to get ahead of their maintenance backlogs. Today is a great day for anglers and hunters!”

“Public land conservation doesn’t happen by mere chance,” said Benjamin C. Jones, president and CEO of Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society. “It started with the founders’ determined work, and its continuation is up to us. This win took savvy, grit and determination. It shows that the future of this uniquely American institution is in good hands. But we can’t rest; let’s do a quick round of high-fives and get ready for the next challenge!”

“Conservation victories do not come any bigger than this,” said Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association and a member of BHA’s North American board. “With full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we have ensured that the foundation of our industry’s livelihood will only be stronger from this generation forward. Passage of the Great American Outdoors Act fulfills a promise to safeguard the public lands and waters that we rely on for our outdoor pursuits and define our uniquely American landscape. This is a big win that thousands all had a hand in achieving. We thank our congressional leaders for making sure it made its way to the president’s desk for his signature.”

Outdoor businesses and military members added their voices.

“First Lite is elated by the passage of The Great American Outdoors Act because it represents bipartisan legislation that will protect both our business and our passion,” said First Lite Conservation and Content Manager Ford Van Fossan. “This landmark legislation will get Americans outside and help get the outdoor recreation industry back on its feet.”

“Investing in access and opportunities in our lands and waters is investing into the future of conservation,” said Cullen Flynn, a former Marine sniper, BHA member and Armed Forces Initiative volunteer, who lives in Montana. “No program does this better than LWCF. It’s as American of a program as we have, utilizing funds from extraction to fuel the conservation of places all over the country. Passing the Great American Outdoors Act ensures this tool exists fully funded in perpetuity. Nothing makes me feel more patriotic than a bill like this one.”

Read reactions from BHA chapter leaders and BHA college club presidents.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the voice
for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.

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http://www.backcountryhunters.org/

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