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August 03, 2020

Great American Outdoors Act a ‘huge win’ for national parks

Credit: Herald-Mail Media, Dave McMillion

U.S. Congress members are cheering the passage of legislation that secures billions of dollars for national parks and promises to fund local sites such as Antietam National Battlefield and the C&O Canal.

The money will be provided through the Great American Outdoors Act, which passed the U.S. Senate in June and the House of Representatives on July 22.

The legislation is awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature, which is expected, according to Hannah Muldavin, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. David Trone, D-6th District.

Highlights of the act include funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Muldavin said.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established in 1964 to protect natural areas, but it has been funded at different levels over the years, according to the National Park Service and Muldavin.

The Great American Outdoors Act ensures the fund will receive $900 million a year, Muldavin said.

“It’s a huge win,” she said.

The Great American Outdoors Act also establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which will provide $22 billion for maintenance needs at national parks, according to Trone’s office.

Antietam National Battlefield near Sharsburg has $12.3 million in maintenance backlogs, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park has $76.3 million in deferred maintenance, according to Trone’s office.

Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent Susan Trail referred questions about the funding to Katie Liming, spokeswoman for the National Capital Region of the National Park Service.

Liming said in an email that funding through the act is in addition to regular funding the National Park Service receives from Congress. She said projects to be funded will be announced later. 

“Ensuring our public parks are in good condition for generations to come is vitally important to our communities and natural heritage,” Trone said in the release. “This legislation provides the long-term funding necessary to create good-paying jobs, protect our natural landscapes, and ensure that all people in our community benefit from the great outdoors in Maryland,” he said. 

“This bill is truly a historic conservation victory and will ensure that America’s treasured public lands are preserved for generations to come,” U.S. Sen Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said in a news release.