President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law a landmark conservation bill that addresses the backlog of infrastructure needs for public lands.
H.R. 1957, or the “Great American Outdoors Act,” (GAOA) establishes the National Park and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund and provides permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
President Trump made remarks during a press conference at the White House before signing the bill.
“For more than 50 years, Congress has struggled to adequately fund land and water conservation, leading to a never-ending backlog of maintenance and other critical needs in our parks and public lands,” Trump said. “Today, more than 5,500 miles of road, 17,000 miles of trails, and 24,000 buildings are in critical need of repair; they have been for a long time. Many are closed, boarded up. They thought it was less expensive to close them than it was to repair them,” he added.
“President Trump just signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law. The GAOA will protect our country’s natural treasures and promote recreation and conservation for generations thanks to the strong leadership of @SenCoryGardner and @SteveDaines,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Twitter.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), one of the main sponsors of the bill, also took to Twitter Tuesday to celebrate the bipartisan support for his legislation.
“This completes decades of bipartisan work to fully and permanently #FundLWCF and will provide jobs for the American people, economic stimulus to communities in need, and ensure future generations can enjoy the #GreatOutdoors,” he said.
U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said that the act combines two significant proposals.
“The first is the establishment of the national parks and public lands Legacy Fund, which is a fund that would be up to $1.9 billion per year over five years, that will be utilized to address. United States significant maintenance backlog at national parks, wildlife refuges, public lands, and even Indian schools with a very significant commitment to the to our deferred maintenance challenge,” Bernhardt said.
Members of the Trump administration have been highlighting the conservation initiative to push the legislation forward, including First Lady Melanie Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump.
“This legislation contains permanent funding for the Illinois Water Conservation Fund. In the tune of $900 million a year,” Bernhardt told reporters. “This is basically reaffirming and establishing the commitment made in 1964 with the Land and Water Conservation Fund commitment that has virtually never been fully funded.”
Bernhardt said the LWCF fund will provide 40 percent of the money to state and local governments for land conservation and recreational facilities, and 60 percent will stay the federal government for expanding land acquisition and recreational facilities.
“Five presidents have worked on addressing this issue, and none of them were able to come up with the legislative proposal that would get over the goal line. And here, President Trump combining these two proposals challenged Congress to move forward. And Congress moved forward with a large bipartisan majority in, really, incredible time,” Bernhardt said.
The bill had 59 cosponsors in the Senate, including 42 Democrats, 15 Republicans, and two independents. The Senate passed the legislation 73-25 in June, and the House passed it 310-107.
“This legislation marks the single largest investment in our national parks and public lands IN HISTORY!” Senate Republicans wrote in a tweet Tuesday.
“And we’re here today to celebrate the passage of truly landmark legislation that will preserve America’s majestic natural wonders, priceless historic treasures—and that’s exactly what they are—grand national monuments and glorious national parks. This is a very big deal. And from an environmental standpoint and from just the beauty of our country standpoint, there hasn’t been anything like this since Teddy Roosevelt, I suspect,” said Trump.