Interior, Agriculture Departments Invest $2.8 Billion to Protect Public Lands, Support Conservation

The Departments of the Interior and Agriculture announced a proposed investment of $2.8 billion in fiscal year 2025 through the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) to protect and sustain our public lands and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)-funded schools. Proposed projects will occur in all 50 U.S. states, Washington D.C., and multiple U.S. territories. 

In August 2020, GAOA established the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF), authorizing up to $1.9 billion per year from fiscal year 2021 through 2025. GAOA LRF funding addresses overdue maintenance needs for critical facilities and infrastructure in our national parks and forests, national wildlife refuges, recreation areas, and BIE-funded schools. GAOA also provides permanent, full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually to secure public access and improve recreation opportunities on public lands, protect watersheds and wildlife, and preserve ecosystem benefits for local communities.  

Investments from GAOA work in concert with President Biden’s Investing in America agenda to strengthen our nation’s infrastructure and prepare it to meet future needs. These investments are an important part of enabling equitable access to the outdoors and meeting the commitments outlined in the America the Beautiful initiative, which is supporting locally led efforts to restore and conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.  

“Addressing the long-delayed maintenance needs of the nation’s aging infrastructure allows safe and equitable access to our outdoor spaces, creates new jobs, and preserves our natural heritage. I was a proud champion of this proposal when I served in Congress, and it has been my honor to see the value it has created through the law's implementation,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “Working together with state, local and Tribal governments, we are committed to ensuring that every child, family and community has access to nature and its benefits.”  

“The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) has enabled the Forest Service to begin to address our $8.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog, and we’re motivated by the impact these funded projects are having across urban and rural communities near our national forests and grasslands,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These investments in Forest Service infrastructure – including wildland firefighter and employee housing, recreation facilities, roads and trails – demonstrate the agency’s commitment to caring for the land and serving people.”  

National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF)  

For fiscal year 2025, the Department of the Interior has proposed 83 GAOA LRF projects and the Department of Agriculture has proposed 89 bundled GAOA LRF projects across all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. territories to improve recreation facilities, water and utility infrastructure, BIE-funded schools, historic structures and other essential infrastructure. For the first time, the Interior Department will invest in all 50 states in a single funding year, helping ensure that the impact of GAOA LRF is felt across the country. 

In total, these projects will support more than 20,000 jobs and contribute more than $2.5 billion to the economy. Economic contributions from GAOA LRF are far-reaching, as projects take place in urban, suburban, and rural areas across the U.S. and its territories. 

GAOA LRF continues to serve as a critical funding source to make major investments that are normally out of reach with annual funding. GAOA’s LRF funding sunsets after fiscal year 2025 and would need to be reauthorized by Congress to continue the efforts underway to address significant infrastructure needs across public lands and BIE-funded schools.  

Interior’s GAOA project page and Agriculture’s GAOA story map demonstrate the difference these projects are having on local communities by improving access and outdoor recreation opportunities across public lands.

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)  

The fiscal year 2025 budget allocates $900 million for LWCF projects and programs managed by the Departments of the Interior and USDA Forest Service. This includes $437 million for federal land acquisition programs and projects, $455 million for state and local grants, and $8 million for a first-ever Tribal LWCF program. 

The Department of the Interior will allocate $681.9 million for its mandatory funded LWCF programs, which includes $313 million for land acquisition. Land acquisition projects acquire critical lands or easements from willing sellers to protect at-risk natural, cultural, or historic resources including critical habitats and migration corridors, and increase access to outdoor recreation. The Interior Department will also invest more than $160 million to fund 48 projects in as many as 30 states across the country, in addition to smaller recreation access projects.

An additional $360.8 million for Interior’s LWCF grant programs will support locally driven state and local conservation and outdoor recreation, including through National Park Service formula grants and Outdoor Recreation Legacy Program (ORLP) grants. The ORLP enables urban communities to create new outdoor recreation spaces, reinvigorate existing parks, and form connections between people and the outdoors in disadvantaged communities. 

In 2025, the Interior Department proposes $8 million to establish a new Tribal LWCF Land Acquisition program. The program will enable Tribes to directly participate in the LWCF for the first time to acquire lands for natural and cultural resource conservation and recreation access. The program will award funds for Tribal land acquisition projects consistent with the purposes of the LWCF and other program criteria. 

In Fiscal Year 2025, the USDA Forest Service proposes $94.2 million to fund 13 Forest Legacy Program projects and $124 million to fund 16 Land Acquisition Program projects for recreation access and other needs. 

These efforts advance President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which sets a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, and other investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution.