The U.S. Senate has recently moved forward in its consideration of the Great American Outdoors Act. The legislation would provide $900 million a year for federal land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and fund maintenance projects on public lands at a level of $9.5 billion over five years. While the bill appears to have bipartisan support in the Senate, several industry groups have voiced significant concern over the legislation and have sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to reject the bill.
“As introduced, the GAO Act, and every other bill that preceded it that contained similar provisions, is an irresponsible way to fix a very real problem,” the letter states. “Without question federally-owned and operated infrastructure needs serious attention, but the GAO Act does not provide a meaningful and lasting solution.”
The opposition to the Great American Outdoors Act is being spearheaded by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Sheep Industry Association and the Public Lands Council. Other signatories of the letter include the California Cattlemen’s Association, Association of National Grasslands, and California Wool Growers Association. The coalition of industry groups highlight the current economic landscape as being an inappropriate time to engage in non-essential spending.
“Consideration of this bill comes at a time when Congress has recently provided trillions of dollars in much-needed aid to individuals, businesses, and communities nationwide as a result of COVID-19,” the coalition noted in the letter. “To add billions of dollars to mandatory spending for LWCF is both irresponsible for future Americans who will be forced to confront American debt, and irresponsible for the resource.”
The coalition contends that approving additional funding for further land acquisition is counterproductive to the goal of addressing the overdue needs of lands already under federal control. The LWCF is already facing a current backlog of approximately $20 billion in maintenance needs for public lands and waters.