As crags and trailheads close and national parks shut their gates one by one, it sure is a weird time for public lands right now. To make matters worse, we’re stuck inside while environmental regulations get rolled back without coronavirus slowing its pace. But here's the good news: we have a rad opportunity to support the Great American Outdoors Act right from home - and all it takes is an email. There's a lot going on the background of COVID-19 right now, so we're going to get you up to speed.
First, let’s start with the bad (shoutout to Wes Siler for his great work compiling & sharing this):
Oil and gas leases - most of which are on public lands - are being sold at rock-bottom prices. Notably, over 150,000 acres right next to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are part of it. That’s great news for fossil fuel companies, but bad news for people who love wild places or a livable planet.
NEPA’s been drastically weakened. This is the law that gives you a voice in how the federal government manages your public lands.
The DOI is privatizing national park campgrounds and forgoing environmental reviews to develop them more quickly.
Yeesh. Ok. Deep breathing. Now it’s time for some good news.
You might remember the Great American Outdoors Act. It picked up a lot of steam in Congress before COVID-19 steamrolled everyone’s previous priorities. The Great American Outdoors Act is a very, very rad bill for our public lands, has bipartisan support (including the President, because politics), and will likely be picked up by Congress again very quickly. And we need your voice to support it!
What is the Great American Outdoors Act? Glad you asked. This mega-bill includes two smaller, very important bills. The first mini-bill is ROPA, the Restore Our Parks Act, which FINALLY provides the money our public lands need for maintenance projects. This bill would provide $1.9 billion a year for national park maintenance projects that’ve been on hold for years. Plus, it might include funding for other public lands, too, like the BLM, USFWS, and the USFS. (Confused about the difference between our public lands? We got you.)
The second mini-bill that’s included in the Great American Outdoors Act is permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF takes money from oil and gas leases on public lands and uses it to fund trails, recreation infrastructure, conservation efforts, and even creating parks across the country. The problem is that Congress sometimes takes this money and “repurposes” it for completely different things. Politics, amiright? Permanently funding the LWCF would make sure that our public lands get the annual $900 million they’ve been promised for conservation efforts.
ROPA and the LWCF alone are worth celebrating. But rolling them together into one huge, amazing, mega-bill for our public lands is worth marching down the streets for (after social distancing, that is). And we need your help to make sure it passes. Send an email to your senators and your representative in support of the Great American Outdoors Act.
Need a template to send them? We’ve got you. Copy-paste this into your email, and feel free to customize it however you feel fit:
I strongly support the Great American Outdoors Act, which dedicates permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Restore Our Parks Act. As an outdoor enthusiast, I strongly support legislation that supports conservation and outdoor recreation in our public lands, including the NPS, BLM, and USFS. As you respond to the COVID-10 pandemic, I hope you’ll pass the Great American Outdoors Act which will support our local communities and provide all Americans more opportunity to safely get outside and reap the benefits of the outdoors.