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Behind the Scenes of the Greatest Legislative Conservation Victory in a Generation

Photo Credit: Jim Vallee

This year’s passage of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) was heralded as one of our nation’s most significant conservation achievements in decades. With its passage, full and permanent funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been secured following more than half a decade of hard-fought efforts. And in the middle of this great success story was Lesley Kane Szynal, who leads the Open Space Institute’s Outdoor America Campaign.

Lesley Kane Szynal, OSI Outdoors America Director
Lesley Kane Szynal, OSI Outdoors America Director

What is the significance of this achievement?

Guaranteed funding for LWCF has profound consequences. It will protect the best of America for all Americans no matter where they live, work, or play. Now, because of the efforts of OSI and our coalition partners, and our allies in Congress, LWCF will be permanently protected. This assures $900 million each year to protect America’s natural, recreational, and cultural resources, including fresh air, clean water, and scenic landscapes. Passage of GAOA is a testament to the bipartisan appeal of parks and public lands – something we can all feel good about – especially now.

How did OSI’s Outdoor America Campaign help secure passage of the Act?

For more than a decade, we brought together a diverse coalition of partners from every corner of the country to tell their stories about how LWCF protects the special places they care about. Land conservation organizations, outdoor recreation businesses, sportsmen and sportswomen, local elected officials, Native American nations, trails groups, and wildlife watchers came together to make the case for protecting nature, culture, history, and heritage for all. And we worked with an equally broad and bipartisan group of decision makers who championed the legislation in Congress.

As Americans turn to the outdoors during these challenging times, how will passage of the Act help?

National parks and other public lands have seen a record number of visitors in the months following the start of the pandemic. The new law provides consistent funding to protect and provide recreational access to our public lands. LWCF is our best tool to create a range of open spaces for outdoor recreation in our National parks, forests, wildlife refuges, local parks, and other public lands.

What’s next for OSI’s Outdoor America Campaign?

Passage of GAOA and its funding of LWCF is very exciting, but we need to work hard to ensure that implementation goes well, and that funding is used as intended – promoting meaningful conservation and recreation for this and future generations in every state and county across the nation.

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