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Senate passes Great American Outdoors Act, big win for conservation

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A glowing light diffuses through clouds before touching a classic mountain scene in west Glacier National Park. PHOTO BY TONY REID

By Bella Butler EBS STAFF

WASHINGTON D.C. – In one of the biggest wins for American conservation, the U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan conservation bill that will provide billions of federal dollars to support public land management agencies and nationwide conservation.

The bill cleared the Senate with a 73-25 vote win. According to Outside Magazine, federal public lands in the U.S. suffer from a maintenance blockage worth $20 billion. Funding from the act will address this shortfall.

The second chunk of funding will ensure that the Land and Water Conservation Fund, another bipartisan creation established by Congress in 1964, will be funded $900 million annually. LWCF has conserved a number of the country’s national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, rivers and lakes with the intent of safeguarding “natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans,” according to the fund’s website. Funding from the new act will support further efforts to conserve such places and take care of those already conserved.

The act’s supporters have also stated that the conservation and maintenance of treasured outdoor spaces will lend a hand to a fragile national economy. According to a 2017 Outdoor Industry Association report, outdoor recreation in the U.S. provides 7.6 million American jobs, generates $887 billion in consumer spending and a combined $124.5 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue.

On March 3, President Donald Trump tweeted “I’m calling on Congress to send me a Bill that fully and permanently funds the LWCF and restores our National Parks,” later crediting Republican U.S. Senators Cory Gardner from Colorado and Montana’s Steve Daines for providing support for the bill.

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