By Molly Elliott - July 20, 2020 - Originally published in the Flathead Beacon
The Great American Outdoors Act would make targeted investments on our lands and waters
On June 17, the U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act with a 73-25 vote. This bipartisan legislation fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund, our nation’s most successful conservation program, and provides much needed dollars for repairs and maintenance projects on our public lands.
The Great American Outdoors Act would make targeted investments on our lands and waters, funding a wealth of shovel-ready conservation and access projects across the country. This opportunity comes at a time when our nation faces unprecedented challenges and economic uncertainty. It would fund LWCF at $900 million in perpetuity, empowering a program that has funded projects in every county in Montana (and nearly every U.S. county). It provides vital tools for improving public access. Here in Flathead County, LWCF has funded Teakettle, Kokanee Bend, Old Steel Bridge and the Beaver Lakes fishing access site. Parks in Bigfork, Columbia Falls, Kila and Whitefish have been created or maintained under this mechanism since the 1960s.
It also would provide public land management agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, National Wildlife Refuge System, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, $9.5 billion over the next five years to repair damaged roads, trails, bridges and water structures.
This legislation did not spring from thin air. It took decades of hard work and relentless advocacy by outdoorsmen and women committed to preserving our wild public lands, waters and wildlife, as well as willing collaboration by members of both parties.
On behalf of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, I thank Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines for supporting this landmark bill. The next vote is scheduled in the House for July 22. Now is the time for Rep. Greg Gianforte to follow our senators’ leadership and send this clean bill to the president’s desk! Montana hunters and anglers are counting on it.