Published in Economic Development
Pictured Rocks Lakeshore Pictured Rocks Lakeshore PHOTO: Veryhuman / CC BY-SA

Congress passes ‘historic’ Great American Outdoors Act

BY Thursday, July 23, 2020 12:57pm

Congress has passed a sweeping national conservation funding bill that will bring millions of additional dollars annually to improve state and federal parks in Michigan.

The Great American Outdoors Act passed the U.S. House 310-107 on Wednesday after similar bipartisan approval in the Senate last month. U.S. Reps. Justin Amash, Tim Walberg and Paul Mitchell were the only members of Michigan’s congressional delegation to vote against the bill. President Trump tweeted his support for the legislation after the House vote.

The legislation permanently funds the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million a year, and also establishes a $9.5 billion trust fund to address deferred maintenance on federal land that has grown over decades.

Michigan received $2.7 million from the LWCF last year, which would more than double to $5.7 million with the bill’s passage, as MiBiz previously reported.

The fund’s matching grant program also allows state parks and local communities to build boat ramps and fishing piers, campgrounds, bathroom buildings, trail enhancements and generally improve and expand public recreation facilities.

The campaign to fully fund the conservation program and address deferred maintenance on federal lands has been going on for decades, led by the late-U.S. Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, who wrote the legislation creating the LWCF in 1964. Politico reported that election-year politics played a key role in it advancing through both chambers. 

Dingell’s wife, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, said during a floor speech Wednesday the passing of the “historic” bill was “an emotional moment for me.”

“The LWCF funding has protected Michigan’s and the nation’s critical natural resources while supporting local economies, creating jobs and providing opportunities for outdoor recreation throughout the country,” Dingell said, noting that the fund has received full funding only twice in its history.

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