DRIFTWOOD OUTDOORS: Congress passes the Great American Outdoors Act

BRANDON BUTLER, Driftwood Outdoors
The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act ensures access to wild lands and waters across the country.

Our United States Congress has passed a landmark piece of conservation legislation. Called The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), this bill pays huge dividends for public lands and waters across the country. Now that it has passed the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, the final step for the GAOA to become law is obtaining the signature of President Trump, who has indicated he will sign it. This is a huge win for conservation. A diverse coalition of national and state organizations, supported by their members, worked hard to make it happen.

"After years of work, we are excited that the Great American Outdoors Act will now become law with the President's signature. This is a historic victory for sportsmen and women," said CSF President Jeff Crane. "This legislation will advance conservation, increase access for hunters and anglers, provide much needed support for public lands and waters, and boost the already formidable sporting-conservation economy. CSF extends our sincere thanks to the House and Senate Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (CSC) members that championed and voted to support these priorities."

Funds allocated by the GAOA specifically benefit the lands and waters of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the United States Forest Service (USFS). This ensures access to publicly owned places for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting. We are blessed with a lot of public land in our country. Most of which is out west. There are over 246 million acres of BLM lands, which are open to hunting and fishing. The USFS administers 193 million acres that are also open to hunting and fishing. These lands afford America's sportsmen and women the opportunity to pursue fish and game, while also stimulating the economy.

“Passing the Great American Outdoors Act is quite simply the most significant investment in conservation in decades. It’s a huge win for wildlife, our natural treasures, our economy, and all Americans, who enjoy our America’s public lands for solace, recreation, and exercise, especially amid this pandemic,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The Great American Outdoors Act shows us once again that investing in our public lands and waters is a rare issue that transcends partisan politics. All Americans will benefit from this historic legislation, which will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, expand outdoor recreation opportunities in every community, and accelerate our nation’s economic recovery from COVID-19.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has benefited every single county in the country. It’s one of the most successful and influential conservation programs in our nation's history. The GAOA fully funds the LWCF at $900 million annually. And $15 million must be spent annually to increase public access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other forms of outdoor recreation.

“This is an incredible win for wildlife, public lands and waters, and for all Missouri families who enjoy hiking, camping, fishing, hunting or otherwise exploring Missouri’s cherished forests and wildlife areas,” said Tyler Schwartze, Executive Director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. “The Great American Outdoors Act will expand recreation opportunities, open up additional hunting and fishing access points, boost our outdoor recreation economy, and create good-paying jobs.”

Outdoor recreation is good for our economy. Both nationally and locally. Missouri is sitting on a gold mine in the Ozarks. Some tourism and economy already happens around the outdoor opportunities we have in this state, but there is so much more potential. If our Ozark legislators would stop trying to sell state parks and start trying to actually inject an outdoor economy in their districts, maybe the extreme rural poverty residents have been plagued with for generation could be corrected. This legislation will create over 100,000 employment opportunities. Missouri could benefit from a similar political strategy of embracing outdoor recreation and public lands.

See you down the trail…

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