Great American Outdoors Act Signed Into Law
On August 4, the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) was signed into law. That action crowns the efforts Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) advocates, including the Forest Society, have been making over the last decade to fully fund the LWCF.
Since its creation in 1964, LWCF has funded thousands of projects at the federal, state and municipal levels. In New Hampshire, it has funded state and municipal parks from Coos County to the sea. In fact, through the end of 2018, our state had received a total of $165.4 million in LWCF funds since the program’s establishment. LWCF has funded major additions to the White Mountain National Forest and the establishment of the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. It has funded Forest Legacy projects, placing permanent conservation easements on privately owned forest lands, like the 146,100 acre Connecticut Headwaters conservation easement in Coos County, and the Moose Mountains Reservation (owned by the Forest Society) in Middleton and Brookfield.
The funding for all this great work comes from the revenue the federal government receives from offshore oil and gas leases to private energy developers. While it is authorized to receive $900 million each year, it rarely ever secured that amount. In fact, the program typically saw less than half the authorized level.
The approval of the GAOA corrects that problem. From now on, the LWCF will receive the $900 million in yearly appropriations the drafters of the program originally intended.
“The LWCF has always been a model for how federal, state and private partnerships result in widespread natural resource, community and economic benefits. GAOA’s enactment is the result of these kinds of connections. Working with our state’s federal delegation, supporters in New Hampshire were part of national network of nonprofits, businesses, local elected officials, recreationists and other stakeholders,” said Forest Society President Jack Savage.
“The Forest Society would like to give special thanks to Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Maggie Hassan, Congresswoman Anne Kuster and Congressman Chris Pappas for the critical roles they played in this effort.
Yes, supporters have had to manage the program’s up and down history of uneven funding. Yes, there were also times when it felt like we would never see this day, especially during those periods when the authorization for the LWCF lapsed.
However, because of the commitment of this partnership, we can all celebrate what is a milestone event," Savage said.