US House Passes GAOA, and it moves to the President's Desk
On July 22, 2020 the US House of Representatives passed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) by a wide bi-partisan margin, 301-107!
The GAOA victory in the House is the next huge step toward passing the largest piece of conservation legislation in decades!
US House of Representatives concurs on the Senate Amendments to pass HR 1957, the vehicle for the Great American Outdoors Act. Credit: LWCF Coalition.
This historic bill now moves to the President’s desk to be signed into law. House passage of the Great American Outdoors Act follows Senate passage of GAOA on June 17, 2020. While the people of the US and Congress have continued to grapple with the COVID-19 global pandemic and address systemic racism and racial violence, the country’s decision makers have taken this step to ensure access for all to the outdoors no matter where they live in the US.
President Trump is expected to sign the bill and has a 10-day window to do so. On March 3, 2020 the President announced his commitment via Twitter.
US President Donald Trumps tweet calling on Congress for the bill that eventually became the Great American Outdoors Act. Credit: Twitter.
The Great American Outdoors Act ensures full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900M per year. LWCF provides funding for planning, development, and acquisition projects that advance the health and vitality of people in the United States through conservation and outdoor recreation. The federal Highlands program is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as the state-side LWCF program, Forest Legacy program, and more. Additionally, GAOA provides $9.5B in funding over the next 5 years to address the maintenance backlog on public lands. The Pennsylvania Highlands is home to Valley Forge National Historical Site, Schuylkill River Valley National Heritage Area, and many state and local parks beloved by those in the region and beyond.
The federal Highlands program, which has conserved 8,780 acres of the highest value conservation lands in the Highlands regions of PA, NJ, NY, and CT, is poised to increase its success and yearly allocation with the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act.
A recently published COVID-19 Impact Report found increased use of trails on protected lands in the PA Highlands and throughout the commonwealth. The report highlights the real need for increased provision of outdoor recreation resources that will be realized when the Great American Outdoors Act becomes law.
Representatives from districts within the PA Highlands region played a critical role in securing the winning vote for GAOA. For years, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of PA-01 has championed full, dedicated, and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Congressman Fitzpatrick worked with the bi-partisan House Problem’s Solver’s Caucus to obtain the caucus’ endorsement for the Great American Outdoors Act in weeks prior to the House vote.
Rep. Fitzpatrick [PA-01] speaks on behalf of GAOA prior to the vote on 7/22/20 and showcases Nockamixon State Park. Credit: K. Witt.
Additionally, Representatives Madeleine Dean [PA-04], Chrissy Houlahan [PA-05], and Susan Wild [PA-07] have supported the Land and Water Conservation Fund and ushered in the victory for the Great American Outdoors Act. Other important supporters include Reps. Matthew Cartwright [PA-08] and Mary Gay Scanlon [PA-05]. Additional House Representatives that voted yes on GAOA are Reps. Dan Meuser [PA-09] and Lloyd Smucker [PA-11].
Read the full press release from the LWCF Coalition.
The Pennsylvania Highlands is a 1.4 million acre region that encompasses parts of 13 counties and boasts unique ecological and cultural resources that contribute to the economic and aesthetic value of the area, as well as provide opportunities for outdoor recreation and enjoyment. To learn more, visit pahighlands.org.
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