McAdams cheers environmental success of funding for national and state conservation program

Press Release

Date: July 22, 2020
Location: West Jordan, UT

Congressman Ben McAdams said Utah natural areas, wildlife habitat, water resources, and recreational opportunities received a huge "win' today with bipartisan House approval of the Great American Outdoors Act, which provides the full $900 million funding amount for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The measure also provides $9.5 billion (over five years) to address the national park maintenance backlog. Last month the Senate passed identical legislation by a vote of 73-25.

"Utahns are blessed to be surrounded by so many treasured natural areas, from lakes and rivers to parks and red rock canyons. This conservation program, at no cost to the taxpayer, will ensure they are preserved and accessible to our children and grandchildren in the future," said McAdams.

The LWCF was established in 1964 to provide national investment in national and state parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails, watershed and recreational access. The fund uses offshore oil drilling fees to enhance conservation and outdoor recreational opportunities at no cost to the taxpayer. In 2019, Congress voted to permanently reauthorize the LWCF in the John D. Dingell Conservation, Management and Recreation Act (S. 47).

"This successful conservation program has provided funding over the years to help protect some of Utah's most special places, including the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest," said McAdams. "Our physical, mental and emotional well-being, our quality of life and our economy all receive a tremendous boost from access to Utah's outdoor landscapes."

McAdams said that chronic underfunding of LWCF has created substantial unmet conservation and recreation needs and has caused local, state, and federal land management agencies to postpone or cancel many important projects. Further, as Utah's economy begins to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 economic shutdown, America's outdoor recreation industry will be vital to that effort. In Utah alone, it contributes over $12 billion and supports 110,000 jobs. He said local, county and state projects have also benefited from the federal program.

"From the inception of the LWCF, Utah has received nearly $200 million in funds for outdoor recreation, parks, natural resources and historic monuments," said John Bradley, President of the Utah Recreation and Parks Association in a letter of support for the bill. "Because of COVID-19, tourism has essentially stopped. Many of our recreational sites are facing massive financial shortfalls resulting in loss of jobs and resources to maintain and preserve these cherished sites."

McAdams said the bill includes critically needed funding to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog facing the national parks, including $220 million for Utah's five national parks and monuments. Zion National Park has $67 million in deferred maintenance backlog while Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Canyonlands have over $20 million each. These beloved parks continue to be among the most-visited national parks in the country.

The Great American Outdoors Act is supported by a broad coalition of outdoor groups and recreational businesses including: Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the RV Industry Association, the U.S Tour Operators Association, The Nature Conservancy, the Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, the American Hiking Society, the National Wildlife Federation and hundreds of other national, regional and local groups.

More information about the scope of Land and Water Conservation Fund projects in Utah is here.