Trenton – The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan bill to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually and provide $9.5 billion over five years to fix maintenance problems that are plaguing America’s public lands. The final vote on the bill was introduced by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), prevailing in the Senate 73-25, and included supportive votes by New Jersey’s two Senators, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).
Alongside other conservation organizations, as well as hunting and fishing groups, outdoor recreation businesses and more, Environment America and Environment New Jersey has prioritized the LWCF, America’s best conservation and recreation program. Utilizing billboards across the country; lawn signs and banners; a steady series of op-eds; and a continual presence on Capitol Hill and in congressional districts, as well as numerous events in New Jersey, including a nature hike in Morris County with Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11) and an event in Cape May County with Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-2), we have pushed legislators to make the LWCF a more effective tool for protecting the beautiful public lands that enrich so many lives.
In response to the Senate’s vote, Environment New Jersey’s Director Doug O’Malley released the following statement:
“The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in the Senate is a big deal, bringing us closer to finally fully funding America’s best conservation and recreation program. This bill reflects what we all know -- protecting and enhancing our public lands is an essential part of the American ethos. By locking in $900 million a year for outdoor projects, plus providing a short-term infusion of money to address maintenance issues, the U.S. Senate is reaffirming that commitment to the natural world.
“We love our public lands, whether it’s local parks and hiking trails or national parks or forests, and this bill puts appropriate funding behind where our hearts lay. LWCF funding has provided hundreds of millions to preserve New Jersey’s natural legacy over the decades, and we are deeply thankful for the leadership of both Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) on this crucial conservation issue.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund legislation has supported projects across the nation and every county in the United States. But over the years, $22 billion has been diverted out of the fund and away from conservation. The Great American Outdoor Act puts a lock and key on money that truly is intended for conservation projects.
“We now urge members of the House to take up and approve this conservation measure – without adding amendments that could jeopardize the bipartisan balance that has been struck – as soon as possible.”