ATLANTA– Amid a tense election year, deep polarization and a global pandemic, leadership from both aisles of Congress came together last summer to pass a landmark conservation legislation into law. The Great American Outdoors Act, which was signed into law one year ago Wednesday, secured permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually and $9.5 billion over five years to update America’s aging public lands infrastructure.
LWCF is a critical framework for protecting endangered species, conserving key habitats and stemming the biodiversity crisis. The fund provides an important source of money for state and local parks and has been used to conserve more than 15 million acres of land -- an area roughly the size of West Virginia -- across the country over the past 55 years.
For years, Environment Georgia and our national network has prioritized LWCF. To urge lawmakers to invest in America’s great outdoors, the environmental advocacy group has served as a continual presence on Capitol Hill and in congressional districts advocating for the protection and expansion of LWCF. Environment Georgia staff gathered thousands of petitions in support of full LWCF funding and even hosted a ‘concrete camping’ event in a parking lot with activists to build support for the program.
In response to the Great American Outdoor Act’s one year anniversary, Environment Georgia Director Jennette Gayer released the following statement:
“One year after being signed into law, the Great American Outdoors Act has been a sweeping victory for Georgia’s lands, wildlife and communities. It has allowed us to protect endangered habitats and secure the public’s access to our state’s breathtaking natural treasures. Already, Georgia is using funding secured by the Great American Outdoors Act to protect 12,500 acres of the pristine coastal Ceylon Forest, thereby conserving habitat for wildlife and safeguarding a critical source of drinking water for millions.
In North America, we have 3 billion fewer birds in the skies than we did in the 1970s, one third of our country’s wildlife species are at an increased risk of extinction and the effects of climate change are only getting worse. However, thanks to the funding secured by the Great American Outdoors Act, our state can access a grant program specifically aimed at protecting endangered species like Georgia’s frosted flatwoods salamanders.
Thanks to the leadership of Reps. Bishop, Carter, Johnson, MacBath, David Scott and Austin Scott, the Great American Outdoors Act is already providing Georgians more access to pristine nature right here in our own backyards. Congress should consider building on this bipartisan consensus around protecting our beautiful outdoor spaces by working both to reconnect habitat with wildlife corridors and to fund state wildlife action plans for species of greatest conservation need. We need more nature in this Georgia, and the Great American Outdoors Act is making that happen.