Historic investments from Great American Outdoors Act will create thousands of jobs, improve infrastructure on our federal lands, and safeguard the environment
WASHINGTON, May 11, 2023 —
The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) enables the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior to propose spending $2.8 billion for fiscal year 2024 to enhance infrastructure, recreational amenities, public access to federal lands, and land and water conservation.
The National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, created by GAOA in August 2020, is authorized to receive up to $1.9 billion annually from fiscal years 2021 through 2025 in order to address the backlog of deferred maintenance on federal lands and at Bureau of Indian Education institutions. The Land and Water Conservation Fund receives permanent, full funding from GAOA at a rate of $900 million year to ensure public access, provide recreational possibilities on public lands, safeguard watersheds and animals, and maintain ecosystem services for nearby communities. The planned projects for fiscal year 2024 are subject to Congressional approval for funding.
To build our country’s infrastructure and get it ready for the future, GAOA investments operate in tandem with President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and other Investing in America programs.
“These deferred maintenance projects are essential as many communities rely on the Forest Service road network to get to schools, stores, and hospitals, and it provides access to forest management and recreation opportunities on national forests and grasslands,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We take great satisfaction in being the custodians of our country’s woods and grasslands, and we firmly feel responsible for this preservation. The Great American Outdoors Act’s Legacy Restoration Fund funding enables us to increase equitable access for recreationists, foster employment growth, promote neighborhood well-being, and strengthen rural and urban economies.
“Every youngster in America needs to have access to a secure outdoor area close by. We are dedicated to furthering environmental justice and guaranteeing fair access to nature and its benefits by collaborating with state, municipal, and Tribal governments, said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “The Great American Outdoors Act enables us to expand outdoor recreation opportunities, upgrade the infrastructure on our public lands, contribute to the American economy, and uphold our commitment to Tribal communities.”
In order to achieve the goals set forth in the President’s America the Beautiful Initiative, which supports regional efforts to conserve at least 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, as well as the USDA Forest Service’s Equity Action Plan and Tribal Action Plan, it is crucial to make these necessary investments.
You can see the difference these projects are having for nearby communities by enhancing access and outdoor recreation possibilities throughout federal lands by visiting Interior’s GAOA project website and the USDA Forest Service’s GAOA narrative map.
National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF)
The USDA Forest Service and Department of the Interior will start their fourth year of addressing high priority deferred repair throughout our public lands with financing from the GAOA LRF for fiscal year 2024.
The Department of the Interior has put forth 56 LRF projects for fiscal year 2024, which is the second-to-last year of funding, and the USDA Forest Service has identified 83 deferred maintenance bundled projects with the goal of enhancing recreation facilities, buildings, water and utility infrastructure, as well as general improvements to roads, trails, bridges, and parking areas.
These initiatives are expected to support more than 20,700 jobs overall and add more than $2 billion to the economy. As projects are carried out in urban, suburban, and rural regions all over the United States and its territories, the LRF’s economic advantages are widespread across the country.
Major expenditures that are often unaffordable with annual financing can still be made with the help of the LRF.
The webpage for the Forest Service under the Great American Outdoors Act provides information on the authorized and financed deferred maintenance projects for the USDA that were approved for Fiscal Year 2023.
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
The LWCF projects and programs are funded with $900 million from the fiscal year 2024 budget, which is overseen by the Interior Department and the USDA Forest Service. This sum consists of $470 million in grants to local governments and states, as well as $430 million for federal land acquisition initiatives and programs.
The LWCF program has a long and significant bipartisan history. It continues to protect special and significant natural and cultural resources that are in danger, improve the biodiversity and resilience of our lands, waters, and ecosystems to the effects of climate change, increase access to outdoor recreation, engage strong local partnership support, and benefit a large audience, including underserved and at-risk communities. The LWCF has provided $4 billion in funding for initiatives in almost all of the nation’s counties since its creation.
Through grants to states and local governments, these investments will fund local conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives while also protecting significant natural regions and cultural heritage sites on federal lands. Recreation opportunities will be made available across the country as a result of these efforts. Additionally, LWCF is a part of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to have 40% of all gains from selected government investments go to underserved areas.
Including $306.2 million for federal land acquisition projects and programs, the Department of the Interior will allot $681.9 million for LWCF activities. In order to safeguard threatened natural, cultural, or historic resources, such as vital ecosystems and migratory corridors, and to provide access to outdoor recreation, land acquisition initiatives purchase necessary property or easements from willing buyers. In addition to smaller recreation access initiatives, the Department will commit more than $160.0 million to 66 projects in as many as 40 states throughout the nation.
The Interior Department suggests allocating an additional $375.7 million to fund state and local awards for conservation and recreation, including grants under the state LWCF formula and grants under the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Program (ORLP). The 2014-founded ORLP gives urban communities the tools they need to build new outdoor recreation areas, revitalize existing parks, and foster linkages between people and nature in neglected areas of society. This nationally competitive grant program provides financing to metropolitan regions (jurisdictions with at least 50,000 residents), with a focus on initiatives in underserved communities with limited access to outdoor recreation.
The USDA Forest Service plans to provide $124 million for 16 Land Acquisition Program projects, projects for recreation access, and other requirements in Fiscal Year 2024, and $94 million for 10 Forest Legacy Program projects.
The USDA has a beneficial impact on every American’s life every day. With a greater emphasis on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, creating new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and more, USDA is transforming America’s food system under the Biden-Harris administration. Go to usda.gov for additional information.