WASHINGTON, D.C. June 17, 2020 – Today, thanks to the support of Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM), the U.S. Senate passed S. 3422, the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan bill to improve our public lands, stabilize funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and provide economic relief to help kickstart the economy.
The federal government owns 640 million acres of land across all 50 states, much of which is open to the public for recreational use. In Sen. Heinrich’s home state of New Mexico, 24.7 million acres are owned by the federal government, greater than 31percent of the state’s total landmass.
Once signed into law, this legislation would create a National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to address the growing maintenance backlog on federal public lands. Half the revenue from energy development on public lands would be allocated to the fund and distributed to the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Education to cover overdue maintenance costs.
The Great American Outdoors Act would fully and permanently fund the LWCF at $900 million annually, ensuring all funding is directed to its intended purpose of state and federal conservation projects.
"A surge in visitors to America’s public lands through the years has led to an accumulation of wear and tear,” said DU CEO Adam Putnam. “Especially in these difficult times, many have sought refuge and recreation on our nation’s extraordinary natural landscapes. That demand for outdoor recreation is a good thing. The Great American Outdoors Act will enable Americans to continue enjoying the great outdoors by ensuring our public lands are a safe and suitable place for all varieties of responsible recreation. A fully funded LWCF provides a boost to our nation’s vital outdoor economy, including at the state and local levels, and ensures this legislation is truly a homerun for conservation and recreation enthusiasts alike.
Ducks Unlimited Chief Policy Officer Zach Hartman was quick to praise Sen. Heinrich, who is a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, for his consistent support of conservation policies, such as the Great American Outdoors Act.
"Senator Heinrich has long been a champion of all things conservation, and this is just another example,” said Hartman. “Every New Mexican who enjoys getting up early to wait in a duck blind, pick up a fishing rod, or lace up a pair of hiking boots should be grateful for the hard work their Senator puts in year-round to preserve wildlife habitat and provide access to outdoor recreation in the Land of Enchanment."
These new investments will boost America’s outdoor recreation industry, which generates $887 billion annually and supports 7.6 million American jobs.
Ducks Unlimited has invested more than $2,200,000 in projects in New Mexico, helping conserve 5,022 acres to date.
For more information, visit www.ducks.org, and be sure to Follow DU’s newest Twitter feed – @DUNews1937 – to get the most up-to-date news from Ducks Unlimited.
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 14.5 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.