WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Joe Manchin is touting the rarity of legislation he’s pushing through the United States Senate aimed at back filling a lot of undone work for the Great Outdoors in West Virginia and across the country.
“This bill is such an important piece of legislation for all of us, people have been talking about this and thinking about this for thirty or more years. Only two times in our history have we fully funded the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Machin said in a conference call to tout his Great American Outdoors Act of 2020.
The United States Senate voted 83-17 recently to take up the bill, without amendments. Manchin hailed the lack of amendments or “clean bill” as one which is sorely needed to fund a high number of projects. Legislation goes to the House of Representatives where he hopes the bill will stay “clean.” The Trump Administration, according to Manchin, is also committed to a no-amendments bill. Adding amendments, according to the Senator, would only serve to bog down the process and possibly kill the historic opportunity to provide top level funding.
The measure would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund with $900 Million. The funding would double the allocation for fiscal year 2019. .
“This act really represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to invest in West Virginia’s and the nation’s spectacular lands and waters and our economy,’ said Beth Wheatley of the Nature Conservancy of West Virginia.
Fully funding the program is a huge deal since it rarely happens. The money is allocated to a couple of different places. No less than 40 percent is directed toward agencies like the National Park Service, National Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in West Virginia.
“There’s not a better infrastructure to be spent on than the Great Outdoors and the beautiful parks we have. It’s going to create maybe 120 to 140,000 jobs There is so much good in it,” Manchin said.
Also no less than 40 percent of the money is allocated to the states. It’s unclear at this point how much the state of West Virginia will see of the funding, but it could be substantial. The dollars are allocated for qualified projects which improve the enjoyment of parks and the outdoors.
“The spectrum of how this has benefited West Virginia ranges from our iconic places like the New and Gauley Rivers, Canaan Valley, Spruce Knob, Seneca Rocks, and Cheat Canyon, but also right here in Clay County where I’m at, we got a community swimming pool,” said Angie Rosser with the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.
West Virginia has received over $48 Million dollars in those kinds of projects from the Land and Water Conservation Fund through the years.
The act also places 9.5 BILLION dollars nationally into the funds which take care of maintenance projects at some of the most high profile outdoor areas in West Virginia. A lot of the maintenance has been put off for a long time. The National Park Service alone estimated its deferred maintenance projects at more than $20 BILLION. US Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service are yet to submit their backlogged projects, but are expected to be equally substantial. Manchin believed chipping away at that deferred maintenance is a huge step toward improving the lands and facilities we all enjoy.
“This is where we’re able to show so much constructive good and that’s what we want to do. We want people to come up with projects that everybody for generations to come can come and enjoy,” said Manchin.