Denver– 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 today, 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 across the country over the past 55 years.
Environment Colorado and our national network has prioritized LWCF, America’s best conservation and recreation program, for years. To urge lawmakers to invest in America’s great outdoors, the environmental advocacy group passed out LWCF face masks to lawmakers, created lawn signs and banners, wrote a steady series of op-eds and served as a continual presence on Capitol Hill and in congressional districts.
In response to the Great American Outdoor Act’s one year anniversary, Environment Colorado’s Senior Program Director Rex Wilmouth released the following statement:
“One year after being signed into law, the Great American Outdoors Act has been a sweeping victory for Colorado’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.”
“The funding made available through this landmark conservation law is now being used for projects in Colorado. The funds will support everything from ensuring river access in Dinosaur National Monument to providing new access to the stunning, high-mountain Sweetwater Lake in White River National Forest. The funds will support expanding the San Luis Valley Conservation Area to protect species like the greater sandhill cranes; waterfowl; and priority species such as the southwestern willow flycatcher and the white-faced ibis.”
“The vital funds provided by the LWCF help connect people to the outdoors and protect the landscapes that make Colorado so spectacular,” said Statewide Trails Program Manager, Colorado Parks and WIldlife, Fletcher Jacobs. “As human populations increase, we have to proactively think about human impact on our natural resources and state lands. This legislation is a positive step to ensure human outdoor recreation is balanced with thoughtful conservation efforts.”
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 Colorado, and the Great American Outdoors Act is playing a crucial role in making that happen.
Environment Colorado is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment. For more information, visit https://environmentcolorado.org/