The dream of a conservation and public access milestone may become a full-fledged reality if final passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422) comes about on the Senate floor.
As of this writing, that final vote was expected to come in a matter of days. Already, the Senate has shown overwhelming support for the GAOA with a bi-partisan vote of 80-17 that advanced the bill forward on Tuesday, June 9, 2020 according to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
"The overwhelming vote yesterday evening in the Senate clearly demonstrates the importance of sportsmen and women," said CSF president Jeff Crane, in a news release."The Great American Outdoors Act is once-in-a-lifetime legislation that will increase access, advance conservation, and provide new employment opportunities for Americans at a critical time,” he continued.
“We are grateful for the strong bipartisan vote yesterday, and we urge the Senate to replicate this vote later in the week to ensure final passage."
Pheasants Forever, part of a broad coalition of conservation groups that have been encouraging American outdoors enthusiasts to help push the legislation forward this spring, puts it simply: “If passed, this would be a historic achievement for conservation, public lands and the future of sportsmen and women — especially during these challenging times."
According to information on the bill provided earlier this year by CSF, the GAOA will provide $9.5 billion over five years to help address maintenance backlog issues currently existing on federally owned public lands and waters.
It will also set aside roughly $3 billion for restoration of infrastructure on lands and waters that are important to American’s sportsmen and sportswomen.
Specifically, CSF notes that 70% of the funds will be allocated to the National Park Service (NPS); 15% for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS); 5% for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS); 5% for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); and 5% for the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE).
And that’s not to mention the $900 million allocated annually that will provide permanently dedicated funding to the vitally important Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). In place since 1964, conservation groups across the nation have indicated that this program is one of the more important ones that exists on the American landscape, even if many outdoors enthusiasts haven’t always been familiar with it or its programs.
Reportedly, that LWCF money will help secure additional public access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other outdoor related activities on public lands across America.
The inclusion of funding specifically for BLM, USFWS, and USFS lands and waters is especially important since collectively, the CSF says that BLM, USFWS, and USFS lands annually support more than 25 million hunting days and nearly 45 million fishing days nationwide.
Obviously, these lands are critical for America’s sportsmen and sportswomen who enjoy hunting, fishing, and other outdoor pursuits on such federally owned ground. So much so that conservation organizations including the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Boone and Crockett Club, Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Mule Deer Foundation, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Sheep Foundation, Pheasants Forever, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership have all thrown their support behind the bill and its passage.
According to the CSF news release, the final vote on the Great American Outdoors Act is expected to occur later this week.
In the meantime, the group encourages those American outdoorsmen who enjoy the nation’s public lands and all that they offer in terms of outdoors recreation for our country to contact their state Senator to encourage a final vote of “yes” on the GAOA.
To find out how to contact the various senators, click here.