By Elizabeth Mendia
Kern Valley Sun
The Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422,) which would provide permanent full funding for the national Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF,) and earmark funding for backlogged infrastructure improvement projects within national parks and other public lands, was passed by the U.S. Senate on June 17.
“LWCF has a lasting legacy in Kern County. Since 1969, the county has received more than $3 million in funds from LWCF to protect more than 35 parks and outdoor spaces like the Kern River, Lake Ming, Golden Hills Nature Park and many others,” wrote Harry Love, president of the Kern Audubon Society in an opinion piece written this May for Bakersfield.com.
The bill was originally introduced on March 9, 2020 with by Senators Gardner (R-CO), Manchin (D-WV), Daines (R-MT) and Warner (D-VA,) and currently has bipartisan support from 49 co-sponsors. The bill will next be deliberated in the U.S. House of Representatives. President Trump has previously stated that he would sign it upon arrival at his desk.
The LCWF is funded through a portion of federal revenue derived from offshore drilling. Because the funds have not been legislatively protected, for decades funds have been diverted from their intended purpose. The current bill would secure full permanent funding for the Fund.
Additionally, the Act would “establish the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Fund, which would direct up to $9.5 billion dollars over five years to address priority repairs in national parks and on other public lands,” according to a factsheet provided to the Kern Valley Sun by Theresa L. Simsiman, California Stewardship Director, at American Whitewater.
“Deteriorating infrastructure, exacerbated by increasing visitation pressures and inconsistent annual funding, has led to a nearly $12 billion backlog in repair needs in America’s national parks; this total increases to over $20 billion when backlog maintenance needs on other public lands are included,” the factsheet states.
For additional information about the Great American Outdoors Act, Simsiman recommends visiting the website OutdoorAlliance.org. Outdoor Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit coalition of national advocacy organizations that includes American Whitewater, among other organizations. Harry Love can be reached through kernaudubonsociety.org.