While it often seems the federal legislative system is so broken that nothing good can come out of it, occasionally a ray of hope appears on the horizon.
Such was the case last week when, in the middle of a pandemic and widespread unrest and rioting, the U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act. The truly bipartisan piece of legislation, shepherded through the Senate by Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Steve Daines, R-Montana, and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, will provide $2.8 billion to much-needed maintenance, improvements and conservation efforts at America’s national parks.
This important measure, supported by a wide variety of sportsmen's groups, provides funds that will help maintain access to public lands, specifically those in line with hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and other outdoor activities.
“This isn’t a bill that just benefits the East or the West, a bill that just benefits coastal states or interior ones,” Gardner said. “The entire country, from Hawaii to Alaska, from Florida to Maine, everywhere in between, benefits from the Great American Outdoors Act.”
In fact, Gardner is correct, as every state has projects on the backlog list. In the past, funds for such projects have often been diverted by Congress for other purposes.
Manchin was also very happy with the measure’s approval. “My bill … has passed the Senate!” Manchin gleefully tweeted after the vote. “This landmark legislation will provide full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWFC) and finally address the ~$20 billion deferred maintenance backlog in our country’s public lands.”
Many observers who have been following the bill closely see passage as a victory for wildlife, public lands, outdoor recreation and even job creation.
“This is a monumental achievement that demonstrates a continued legacy of bipartisanship on wildlife, public lands and outdoor recreation issues,” said Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). “When enacted, this legislation will fulfill a promise to future generations that conservation, access to public lands and outdoor recreation including hunting and recreational shooting will be safeguarded well into the next century.”
The measure passed the Senate by a 73-to-25 vote and now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.
“I call on the House of Representatives to pass this bill without delay in order to provide jobs to the American people, economic stimulus to communities in need, and protections for the great American outdoors for future generations of Americans to cherish,” Gardner said.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.