St. Petersburg, FL– 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 by former President Donald Trump 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.
The LWCF is a critical framework for protecting endangered species, conserving key habitats and stemming the biodiversity crisis. LWCF provides an important source of money for state and local parks and has been used to conserve more than 15 million acres of land -- an area roughly the size of West Virginia -- across the country over the past 55 years.
For years, Environment Florida and our national network has prioritized LWCF. To urge lawmakers to invest in America’s great outdoors, the environmental advocacy group has served as a continual presence on Capitol Hill and in congressional districts advocating for the protection and expansion of the LWCF.
In response to the president signing the bill into law, Environment Florida state director, Jenna Stevens, released the following statement:
“The Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law one year ago. This landmark conservation law has been a sweeping victory for Florida’s lands, wildlife and communities, allowing us to protect endangered habitats and secure the public’s access to our state’s breathtaking natural treasures. Already, Florida is using funding secured by the Great American Outdoors Act to expand the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area as well as protect more of the incredible features in the Wakulla Caves Forest.
In North America, we have 3 billion fewer birds in the skies than we did in the 1970s, one third of our country’s wildlife species are at an increased risk of extinction and the effects of climate change are only getting worse. However, thanks to the funding secured by the Great American Outdoors Act, our state can access a grant program specifically aimed at protecting endangered species, like the Florida Panther or Key Deer this year.
Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Kathy Castor and Senator Rubio, the Great American Outdoors Act is already providing Floridians more access to pristine nature right here in our own backyards. 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 Florida, and the Great American Outdoors Act is making that happen."