U.S. House approves Great American Outdoors Act
In an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the Great American Outdoors Act. The 310-107 vote in favor sends the GAOA to President Trump for his approval. If he ultimately signs the bill into law, the bill would provide $900 million annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and $9.5 billion over the next five years for the maintenance and infrastructure needs at our country’s national parks and national forests.
New Hampshire has received a total of $165.4 million in LWCF funds since the program’s establishment in 1964. It has funded major additions to the White Mountain National Forest and the establishment of the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. It has supported 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.
Also significantly, the bill will benefit the White Mountain National Forest. Both the National Forest and National Park systems are suffering from aging infrastructure facilities, including trails, and outdated visitor amenities. The GAOA will help to address the $18 billion overdue maintenance needs on these public lands.
New Hampshire has a backlog of more than $43 million in deferred maintenance. The following areas would be eligible for maintenance funding under the Great American Outdoors Act:
- White Mountain National Forest
- Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge
- Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge
- John Hay National Wildlife Refuge
- Wapack National Wildlife Refuge
- Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park
- Conte National Wildlife Refuge
- Appalachian Trail
“On behalf of the Forest Society, I want to thank Congresswoman Ann Kuster and Congressman Chris Pappas for their leadership on the passage of this important legislation. New Hampshire’s quality of life and livelihood has always been tied to our forests and natural areas. The Forest Society’s Moose Mountains Reservation is just one example of how the Land and Water Conservation Fund has strengthened this connection between healthy forests and a healthy quality of life. With the passage of the GAOA, we are hopeful that all the stakeholders in New Hampshire-from private landowners to state agencies- will be able to celebrate more projects like Moose Mountains,” said Forest Society President Jack Savage.
The President has 10 days (excluding Sundays) to sign a bill passed by Congress. LWCF stakeholders are hopeful he will quickly sign the GAOA into law as soon as it reaches his office. However, we would encourage supporters to contact the President (https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/) to urge him to sign the GAOA.