Opinion article by Michael Butler, CEO of Tennessee Wildlife Federation.
Tennessee Wildlife Federation is celebrating an overwhelming bipartisan vote for the state’s—and the nation’s—wildlife and great outdoors.
A national coalition that included thousands of Tennesseans secured the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. The bill will permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and provide money for deferred maintenance projects at national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands.
“Our organization and supporters fought hard for this win,” said Michael Butler, CEO of Tennessee Wildlife Federation. “Senator Alexander’s leadership and support on this bill cannot be understated. It is fitting that this landmark piece of legislation has passed. He has fought tirelessly for the cause of conservation for decades, and he will be greatly missed when he retires from the Senate. Tennesseans will have to speak out even more if we want to see victories like this again in the future.”
Clearing its final hurdle in the House July 22, the Act passed by an overwhelming and bipartisan vote of 310 to 107. All congressmen from Tennessee voted in favor of the bill.
In June, the Act passed the Senate in bipartisan, 73-25 vote. Senator Alexander, an original cosponsor of the bill, voted in favor. The Federation expressed disappointment that Senator Blackburn voted against this historic bill that will help both our natural resources and rural Tennessee economies.
The bill was signed into law by the president on August 4.
The Act provides five years of funding, up to a total of $9.5 billion, to address a sizable portion of the national parks’ maintenance backlog. This includes deferred habitat restoration, trail and other amenity maintenance, and historic site preservation.
It also provides full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. At $900 million every year, this will expand recreation opportunities, conserve wildlife, and create jobs. The Land and Water Conservation Fund was created in 1964 but has only been fully funded twice.
Funds come from oil and gas royalties paid by companies operating on public lands and waters.