Grassroots conservation efforts pay off with the passing of the Great American Outdoors Act.
By Zoe Leibovitch
August 7th, 2020
There’s no question that the current political climate is utterly chaotic and to many, terrifying. But, amidst a global pandemic, recession, the biggest civil rights movement in the last century, a climate crisis, and debatably one of the most important presidential elections to date, there lies cause to celebrate: a win for outdoors-people.
On Tuesday, August 4th, 2020, The Great American Outdoors Act was passed. Despite possible ulterior motives, this new legislation marks an ongoing commitment to protecting and maintaining our National Parks, National Forests, BLM Land, and Wilderness Areas. According to congress.gov, “this bill establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to support deferred maintenance projects on federal lands.” Further, the act ensures permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and allots $9.5 billion toward restoring deteriorating recreational infrastructure (Washingtonpost.com). The new legislation will use revenues from energy development and royalties from offshore oil and natural gas to accomplish its goals - means that may not justify the end, but, hey, at least it is progress.
So, what does this mean for you? For starters, every August 4th will be designated “Great American Outdoors Day,” where park entrance fees will be waived nationwide to commemorate the signing of the bill (prepare for an early start if you want a parking spot). If you frequent national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, or other recreation areas, expect much-needed renovations and ongoing maintenance.
“Approximately 67 million visitors annually come to BLM-managed lands, supporting approximately 48,000 jobs nationwide and contributing almost $7 billion to the U.S. economy” (doi.gov). While the increased foot traffic to our national parks and public lands has benefited our economy, the public infrastructure in these areas can’t successfully support the rising numbers. That’s why The Great American Outdoors Act marks a turning point for conservation efforts across the country. This bill will hopefully provide a longer-term solution to an ongoing problem. So, for all of you fellow ‘weekend warriors’ and national park explorers who are negatively impacted by the mob of tourists taking your parking spot or park reservation, perhaps you can fear no longer. The series of ensuing improvements will not only protect our lands, but also better accommodate the increased participation in outdoor recreation, which in itself is something worth celebrating. This act in no way redeems the catastrophic removal of over 35 Million acres of public lands (more at OutsideOnline.com), but this is a victory, nonetheless.
So, what does this all have to do with Peak State? For us, coffee is often the first step to a day spent outdoors. Conservationists at heart, we’re in business to protect our natural playgrounds, and we’re excited to see progress on this front. So, let’s acknowledge the hard work conservationists, environmentalists, and outdoor lobbyists have put in over the years, and it may be a small step, but a step in the right direction!