Authored by Becky Edwards & Jen Clanahan
Earlier this year, Americans stood up and spoke out on behalf of the Great American Outdoors Act – arguably one of the most consequential conservation and recreation bills of our lifetime. GAOA includes full, permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to the tune of $900 million annually, and also includes needed funds for deferred maintenance projects in our national parks and public lands.
All of us at the Mountain Mamas – and all of you reading! – worked hard to pass this legislation that provides parks, playgrounds, trails, ball fields, healthy forests, and more for all families to enjoy. THANK YOU for all of your efforts to ensure everyone has safe, accessible, equitable public spaces to breathe fresh air and stretch our legs – which is needed now more than ever during the pandemic.
Recently, the Department of the Interior (DOI) missed a deadline to provide priority projects for the FY21 fiscal year – the first step of implementing the GAOA. This was and is disconcerting to us. When pressed by Congress to provide a list – DOI fell far short of what was put forth for approval for this coming year’s projects. To add gasoline to the fire, the Secretary of the Interior issued an order that would continue to gum up the implementation works, and also impose new restrictions on DOI agencies and their use of GAOA funds – a direct affront to Congress’ work to consider the legislation in hearings, mark ups, and through passage. The DOI has one job to do for our families – implement what our elected officials have passed for our benefit.
Women across the nation are looking to our Senators to pick up this important ball that the current administration dropped – and ensure the GAOA is honored and implemented as it was written. There are $900 million dollars of shovel-ready projects that could be – should be – implemented across the nation, providing economic stimulus through building of these playgrounds, ball fields, fishing access sites, as well as repairing national parks and public lands infrastructure gone ignored for far too long.
Several western Senators such as Colorado’s U.S. Senator Cory Gardner have taken credit for helping to pass the GAOA in many, many campaign ads during the recent election, but now, just a couple weeks later they haven’t uttered a peep in defense of the program. Where are they? Projects in both of our states were left off the list and are now at-risk.
We have every hope that Congress will stay true to the GAOA, and smooth out these implementation wrinkles in this administration, and the next. What can you do? Reach out to your US Senator at 202.224.3121 and tell them that the FY21 projects for the GAOA must be funded, and we are depending on them to stay true to their word to families across the nation. Implement the Great American Outdoors Act as promised!