Philadelphia – Amid a tense election year, deep polarization and a global pandemic, leadership from both aisles of Congress came together last summer to pass a landmark conservation legislation into law. The Great American Outdoors Act, which was signed into law one year ago today, secured permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually and $9.5 billion over five years to update America’s aging public lands infrastructure.
LWCF is a critical framework for protecting endangered species by conserving key habitats. The fund provides an important source of money for state and local parks and has been used to conserve more than 15 million acres of land across the country over the past 55 years. LWCF has preserved and improved federal, state and local parks and open spaces, including iconic sites like Valley Forge, Gettysburg and Allegheny National Forest, but also playgrounds, neighborhood ball fields and swimming pools in cities and towns across the commonwealth.
PennEnvironment and our national network has prioritized LWCF, America’s best conservation and recreation program, for years. To urge lawmakers to invest in America’s great outdoors, the environmental advocacy group ran billboard advertisements, got thousands of Pennsylvanians to write and call their congressperson in support of LWCF, published a steady series of op-eds, and maintained a continuous presence on Capitol Hill and in congressional districts.
In response to the Great American Outdoor Act’s one year anniversary, PennEnvironment’s Clean Water & Conservation Advocate released the following statement:
“One year after being signed into law, the Great American Outdoors Act has been a sweeping victory for Pennsylvania’s lands, wildlife and communities. It has allowed us to protect endangered habitats and secure the public’s access to our state’s breathtaking natural treasures.”
“The funding made available through this landmark conservation law is now being used for projects in Pennsylvania. Thanks to the funding made available through this landmark public lands bill, the Interior Department has budgeted over $9.4 million for projects in Pennsylvania ranging from badly-needed renovations at the birthplace of liberty, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, to making the Delaware Water Gap more accessible to visitors, to improvements at Allegheny National Forest and in the headwaters of the Susquehanna River, protecting some of our most treasured streams for backcountry fishing.”
“And Pennsylvania’s own members of Congress played a critical role in its passage, with Sen. Bob Casey and 14 out of 18 of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation voting for the Act.”
“Congress should consider building on this bipartisan consensus around protecting our beautiful outdoor spaces by working both to reconnect habitat with wildlife corridors and to fund state wildlife action plans for species of greatest conservation need. We need more nature in Colorado, and the Great American Outdoors Act is playing a crucial role in making that happen.”
PennEnvironment is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. For more information, visit www.PennEnvironment.org.