WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Tuesday put his pen to a bill and enacted the Great American Outdoors Act. The new law promises years of improvement to projects benefiting outdoor recreation in West Virginia and all across America.
“The greatest conservation or environmental legislation in the past 50 years,” said U.S. Senator Joe Manchin on a recent edition of West Virginia Outdoors talking about the act.
Manchin, ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, helped shepherd the act through his committee and the U.S. Senate. He was also instrumental to help convince House leaders to hold the line on various amendments which threatened to derail the measure.
“The House passed it 310 to 107. The Senate passed it 72 to 25. In the most toxic atmosphere this country has ever seen politically, for this to happen it tells you how one thing, the Great Outdoors, brings us all together,” Manchin said.
The measure includes a couple of key provisions. First it will guarantee full funding of the Land-Water Conservation Fund in perpetuity. The LWCF was established more than 50 years ago as a way to direct royalty payments from off-shore oil drilling into conservation and outdoor recreational projects of the country.. However, during those 50 years, it has only received its full, annual allocation twice. Some years, it’s seen no allocation at all.
“It’s been about $900 Million annually, but LWCF has received about $450 million and some years would get nothing. Now, by law, all of that money has to go toward the Land-Water Conservation Fund and almost every county in the country has benefited,” Manchin explained.
Qualified projects could be anything from swimming pools to hiking trails, to boating access to public hunting areas. The main qualification is the project must lend itself to improving the public’s exposure to the Great Outdoors.
A second piece of the Act will direct $9.5 BILLION to long deferred maintenance projects in the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service recreation areas. Manchin said some of the parks have falling into embarrassing disrepair from a lack of funding and that will change under the program.
“Outdoor recreation is the fastest growing economic engine we have in this country and this is going to enhance that even more,” Manchin said.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the outdoor recreation industry in West Virginia generates 22,202
jobs; provides $668.5 million in salaries; and contributes $1.498 billion in economic output each year. Since its creation in 1964, LWCF has provided over $250 million to West Virginia, having benefited 54 of 55