Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson is co-sponsoring a new bill called “The Great American Outdoors Act.”
Simpson said the bill permanently funds the existing Land and Water Conservation Fund, which increases access to public lands. He said it would also maintain public lands by creating a new fund to address the backlog of deferred maintenance in National Parks, Forests, Bureau of Land Management assets, Wildlife Refuges, and Bureau of Indian Education school construction.
For example, Simpson said Yellowstone National Park still has over $585 million in deferred maintenance costs. It would be funded by energy production on federal lands and waters. He says it has the support of both Idaho and national conservation groups.
“In 2017, I sat down with public lands groups and we decided that fixing the backlog of maintenance and preserving those lands through LWCF was a partnership that makes sense, which is why I wrote the LAND Act.”said Simpson. “At the end of the day, and through these trying and unprecedented times, we realize the outdoors are why we live in Idaho. This legislation ensures generations to come will be able enjoy these amazing places as we do today.”
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation President and CEO Kyle Weaver said the Land and Water Conservation Fund will provide conservation organizations and landowners some certainty that their agreements to protect and expand wildlife habitat will succeed. “The Great American Outdoors Act gives an invigorating jolt to the growing momentum in Congress to fully fund our parks and public lands. The COVID pandemic has shown just how critical our national, state and local parks, trails and public lands are to every Idahoan. Never before has the emotional benefits of time spent with nature been so evident.” said Craig Gehrke, Director, Idaho Office, The Wilderness Society.
The National Trust for Government Relations and Policy said the act is a bipartisan solution that would provide $9.5 billion in dedicated funding over 5 years for much-needed repairs of the National Park Service and other agencies.
Simpson expects to see a Senate vote next week, followed by consideration in the U.S. House.
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