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© Mike Schirf

A defining victory for public lands, decades in the making

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Breaking news from Washington, DC: the Great American Outdoors Act was just signed into law. This is arguably the most important parks and public lands law of our generation, providing over $9 billion to fix the maintenance backlog at federal lands like national parks and forests, and guaranteeing full funding—$900 million every year—for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF.

LWCF is the longstanding federal program that directs fees from oil and gas drilling to investments in parks and open space. Since Congress created the program in the 1960s, communities have used LWCF funds to conserve 8 million acres of open space and improve access to nature in nearly every county in America. (LWCF is one of our most important sources of funding to help communities protect and enjoy the outdoor places they love—from wild backcountry escapes to familiar neighborhood parks.)

But despite over 50 years of bipartisan support for LWCF, the program has also come under attack by a small but powerful group of private interests seeking to weaken our system of shared public lands and exploit our nation’s land and water for their own gain. In the past 10 years, Congress has allocated less than half of the funding for LWCF toward parks and open spaces. And when the program came up for renewal in 2015 and again in 2018, this isolated group of lawmakers sought to let LWCF expire altogether.

But we weren’t going to let that happen. Our national parks and forests must not be left vulnerable to exploitation, fragmentation, and neglect—and today, we know that 1 in 3 Americans still doesn’t even have a park within a 10-minute walk of home. We need to invest more to close these gaps in park access and guarantee equal access to the outdoors for everyone, on every block, in every community in America.

ca_ventura_10mw_07242017_10LWCF funding transformed an abandoned factory in Ventura, California, into Kellogg Park, a close-to-home haven for thousands of young families who live nearby. Photo credit: Plus M Productions

So in Washington, DC, and in communities across the country, The Trust for Public Land has led the long, hard fight for LWCF. Every year, we’ve urged Congress to direct more funding to communities in need through LWCF. We kept the pressure on lawmakers when LWCF expired in 2018—and passed a major milestone last spring when Congress passed a bill that authorizes the program permanently.

And today, we’re among the hundreds of thousands of people cheering while the Great American Outdoors Act crosses the finish line with a decisive bipartisan victory: 73 percent of the Senate and 72 percent of the House.

This vote represents a guaranteed 240 percent increase in funding through LWCF for the decade to come. This stable, predictable, and dedicated source of public support will be a transformative force for the future of our parks and public lands—and the people and communities that rely on the outdoors for health, resilience, and inspiration.

vt_catamount_20190621_051Nearly every county in America has a special place protected or created with LWCF funding. It's one of the most important sources for connecting people with nature, and each other, across the U.S.Photo credit: Ember Photograph / Brian and Emily Mohnr

So we wanted to take a moment to thank you. Your support of The Trust for Public Land—and your calls, emails, posts, and letters—got us to this monumental victory. And while we’re taking a moment to celebrate this great news, we also know that it marks the beginning of a challenging, exciting new era: in the months and years to come, we’ll stay connected with the broad, diverse coalition of Americans who’ve united behind LWCF. Using our cutting-edge data and led by the best researchers in the business, we’re committed to investing in public lands where the need is greatest, and where the power of parks will make the biggest difference.

Join us tomorrow at 4:30 ET/1:30 PT for a live celebration! We'll hear from our staff experts about why this win matters, and what to look for in the months and years to come. Register here.

Thank you for standing with us to ensure every person in America has access to the outdoors. Join our email list and we'll keep you up-to-date on all the amazing ways this important policy will create the change our country needs and deserves. 

Comments

ANNA c CASTORO
THANKS TO PRESIDENT TRUMP FOR SIGNING THE BILL DESPITE THE DEMOCRATS OPPOSITION
cynthia brown
we need to save our Public Lands for the people of the Nation
Susan Alexander
Does Pres. Trump have to sign the bill before it becomes law?
Teresa H. Martin
Getting that much land under your management is wonderul.
Ann Beaudin
Kudos. Reason I support your LWCF and kindred organizations. One important omission that, we believe, should be noted in your announcement: the names of members of Senate and the House who did not support this initiative and have traditionally thwarted conservation and protecting public lands. Very dismaying that LWCF directs fees from oil and gas drilling to investments in parks and open space. Since its creation the program has used LWCF funds to conserve 8 million acres of open space and improve access to nature in numerous USA counties and looks to this as one of the most important funding sources. There should be a better way to protect our treasured lands without compromising and, in a sense, abetting the oil and gas industries. Common sense and purpose finds this a compromise that dilutes our vision for a course of action that promotes renewable energy and expands our loyalty toward preservation. Hopefully, you will take our position into consideration. With all due respect and regard,
Ann Beaudin
Kudos in one regard as it is part of the reason I support your LWCF and kindred organizations. One important omission that, we believe, should be noted in your announcement: the names of members of Senate and the House who did not support this initiative and have traditionally thwarted conservation and protecting public lands. Very dismaying that LWCF directs fees from oil and gas drilling to investments in parks and open space. Since its creation the program has used LWCF funds to conserve 8 million acres of open space and improve access to nature in numerous USA counties and looks to this as one of the most important funding sources. There should be a better way to protect our treasured lands without compromising and, in a sense, abetting the oil and gas industries. Common sense and purpose finds this a compromise that dilutes our vision for a course of action that promotes renewable energy and expands our loyalty toward preservation. Hopefully, you will take our position into consideration. With all due respect and regard,
polly hart
To all who worked endlessly and will continue to work toward the values of so many Americans related to public lands, the THANK YOU's go to those who have persisted and who have done the work that not everyone can do full-time. The staff for TPL are largely unknown by the general public, but they are clearly "essential" workers as we have begun to understand just what that term means. For quality of life for all -- the quality not possible without our public lands and outdoors, we thank you, and also salute who you are and what you've accomplished. POLLY HART Cumming, GEORGIA
Ellen Antoniades
That's great news! Congratulations!! Has Mitch McConnell signed this and sent to the president? And, did the president sign it into law? I hope so. Best regards always!
Brenda Hixenbaugh
Great buckets of fish, there are some good people in our government. No golf courses or drilling fields,wonderful there is hope I want to thank everyone that made this possible. Especially you who worked tirelessly to get this win and also to the Senators and Congressmen who understood the major importance of these outdoors areas. Everyone give yourselves and the one standing next to you a great big well earned pat on the back with a great big Thank You.
Jim McCotter
I'm a Dem, and love this victory!! Sen Cory Gardner (R-CO) is claiming a lot of credit for this in his re-election campaign. How much was he responsible? Be honest!
kathleen knight
Congratulations. the work you are doing is stupendous. and I thank you for your great persistence. hooray!
Steve Kadar
Did you folks see the recent story in the New York Times about Redlining (August 24) and how it has created hot spots in cities? Its worth a look because if you want to inject some "green" into urban areas, looks like parts of Richmond, VA could use all the help it can get. I lived in Richmond for 24 years and can vouch for the areas that were left like that.
Melinda Jones
Can't join the celebration tomorrow, but am really delighted with this victory. I have supported--and will continue to the support--the Trust for Public Land, and am proud to be among those who do so. Keep up the wonderful work.
Anonymous
Trump has been a threat to public lands, causing me to be so aware of how important they are.
Helen Jo Williams
It’s marvelous to have such good news in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic and a Donald Trump Presidential administration.

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