A landmark bill committing $900 million a year for land conservation and a one-time $9.5 billion boost to help catch up over the next five years on maintenance needs at national parks was signed into law by President Donald Trump Monday.
The Great American Outdoors Act, S. 3422, will increase by two or three times the historic average amount of money spent by Congress for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The program, used to fund acquisitions from willing sellers for federal, state and local open space and outdoor recreation, is paid for from royalties earned on oil and natural gas leases on public lands.
Washington state will receive hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade under the program, for everything from repairs at National Parks and tribal schools to acquiring open space for outdoor recreation.
The program has deep roots in Washington: the Land and Water Conservation Fund was created by Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, of Washington, in 1965. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., worked with lawmakers in both chambers and both sides of the aisle to broker the combination of legislation in the works that added up to the Great American Outdoors Act.
In addition to funding about half the national park maintenance backlog, the legislation’s signal breakthrough is establishing permanent funding for the conservation fund at $900 million a year, ending chronic underfunding for the program.
More than 725 acquisitions and projects have been funded in Washington under the Land and Water Conservation Fund since its inception, all over the state, in urban and rural areas.