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Great American Outdoors Act passes U.S. House

On July 22, 2020, the Great American Outdoors Act passed the U.S. House on a 310-107 vote.

The legislation addresses long-standing maintenance needs of the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as three other federal land agencies and sets up permanent funding for a conservation fund.

U.S. Rep. Greg Murphy from North Carolina’s Third Congressional District voted in favor of the legislation.

“Eastern North Carolinians understand the importance of conservation, considering the beautiful land and shorelines that we are so fortunate to enjoy,” wrote Murphy in a media release.

“Our district has a tremendous amount of federal lands and providing the money that they need to properly function is a priority of mine. I am proud to support this landmark legislation that will ensure the many federal lands in our district will permanently have the funding they need to operate,” said Murphy.

The legislation is on its way to President Donald Trump’s desk. He has promised to sign the bill.

The Great American Outdoors Act creates a five-year National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Fund for addressing the deferred maintenance of the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Education.

The National Park and Public Lands Legacy Fund will receive 50% of all federal revenues from the development of oil, gas, coal or alternative renewable energy on federal land and waters. Amounts to be deposited must not exceed $1.9 billion for any fiscal year.

The funds must be used for priority deferred maintenance over the next five years. The total to be spent is $9.5 billion. Each fiscal year, the funds will be allocated 70% to the National Park Service, 15% to the Forest Service, 5% each to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education.

In his media release, Murphy enumerates the district’s federal lands helped by the legislation. The Third Congressional District contains one national forest, nine national wildlife refuges, two national seashores, one national memorial and one national historic site.

The second part of the legislation is permanently funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a long-term goal for North Carolina Senator Richard Burr.

Once the legislation is signed, $900 million will be available annually to the conservation fund. The monies come from royalties earned from offshore oil and gas revenues. Funds allocated to the conservation fund had regularly been diverted. For the last two decades, allocations have ranged from $149 million to $573 million.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, created in 1965, has two portions, one federal and one state. The federal portion is used to acquire appropriate in-holdings within national parks and other priority projects of federal land agencies. The state portion funds development of outdoor recreation facilities throughout the United States and territories.

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