Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

August 2021

The Great American Outdoors Act, One Year Later

August 4, 2021, was the one-year anniversary of the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act being signed into law. The act authorized $900 million in annual funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and is designed to address the nearly $20 billion deferred maintenance backlog on federal public lands.

Organizations and businesses involved with outdoor recreation celebrated the anniversary, looking to historic achievements that have already been made, as well as looking forward to celebrate future successes.

"The Great American Outdoors Act is laying the groundwork for a historic investment in parks and outdoor spaces, which provides countless economic, physical and mental health benefits to people across the country," said Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association. "We are encouraged to see the law already leading to new outdoor recreation projects and public land improvements."

Jessica Turner, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, joined with other industry leaders to talk about how the act has been implemented, adding that it is "…abundantly clear, with stories in the press almost constantly throughout the pandemic and now as travel opens up, that our public lands and waters are in high demand for the myriad benefits they provide, from physical activity to mental health and wellness, socializing with friends and family, a connection to nature, not to mention the economic benefits to local communities, jobs and economies."

Two major accomplishments are being celebrated in particular: the full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the creation of the Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF) to address the maintenance backlog across America's public lands and waters.

Some of the progress made over the past year includes:

  • The U.S. Forest Service and the Interior Department have identified more than a thousand vital infrastructure improvement projects, including campgrounds, roads, bridges, visitor centers, parking lots, trails, water and electrical systems and more.
  • More than 150 campground-related projects are being worked on in the first year alone.
  • The Interior Department is rolling out 165 deferred maintenance project and an investment of $1.6 billion to improve infrastructure in National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, Recreation Areas and more.
  • LWCF funds will now flow consistently to every state and territory each year to protect state and local parks and high-priority public lands, as well as to support new parks in cities where residents lack access to the outdoors.
  • In fiscal year 2022, more than 100 locally driven projects have been prioritized as ready-to-go conservation and recreation opportunities that will enhance and improve access to federal public lands, protect cultural and historic sites and support working lands in rural communities.

"GAOA is special because it brings together a broad range of recreation: rivers, trails, conservation, parks, and philanthropic partners," said Shannon Estenoz, assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior. "Partnerships are critical to the successful implementation of the Act, so that we can ensure that we leverage the historic federal commitment represented by the Act with state, local and organizational funding to improve and modernize our stewardship of national resources, accommodate visitor needs and increase recreation opportunities in ways that align with our equity and inclusion goals."

Kristine Stratton, president and CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association emphasized the historic significance of the LWCF. "Since LWCF was signed into law, 42,000 state and local park projects in every state in the nation have been funded through LWCF, representing over $4.9 billion in investments," she said. "And with the 1:1 match, that means that the fund has created nearly $10 billion in economic activity for local communities. This is a fraction of the economic activity that local parks can generate—in 2017, local park and recreation agencies generated $166.4 billion in economic activity and supported 1.1 million jobs around the country."

"Additionally, more people than ever before are visiting parks and other public lands, including more women, people of diverse ethnicities and those living in urban areas. It is critically important to continue making these investments to ensure these public lands and waterways remain accessible to all, regardless of ZIP code," added Aangeenbrug. "As Congress and the Biden administration continue to work on additional conservation and climate legislation, we hope GAOA can provide lessons for how to create and enact new and effective laws to protect the outdoors and increase access to these amazing natural resources."

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Outdoor Industry Association Paints Picture of the New Outdoor Participant - April 2021

NRPA Introduces New Resource Aimed at Eliminating Health Inequities - April 2021

ULI Report: Pandemic Led to Innovation in the Public Realm - April 2021

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NGWSD Celebrates Girls & Women in Sports - February 2021

Organizations Lodge Opposition to Last-Minute LWCF Changes - February 2021

Parks & Rec Pros Serve Essential Mentorship Role - January 2021

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New Appropriations Act Boosts City Park Funding - January 2021

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USA Swimming Recognizes Top-Performing Clubs - December 2020

Pediatricians Update Youth Sports Guidance, Recommend Face Coverings at All Times - December 2020

ACA Grant Program Aims to Promote Access and Inclusion at Camp - December 2020

2020 Voters Approve $3.7 Billion for Parks & Public Lands - November 2020

Study Highlights Parks & Rec's Role in Youth Sports - November 2020

Grants Available for Swim Lesson Providers - November 2020

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Study Shows Americans Miss the Gym - November 2020

City Parks Alliance Launches Park Funding Hub - October 2020

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U.S. Reps File Health & Fitness Recovery Act - October 2020

IHRSA Foundation, ACE Aim to Improve Exercise Inclusion for People With Intellectual Disability - October 2020

NRPA Survey: U.S. Adults Say Parks & Rec Is Essential - September 2020

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ACE Urges Governments to Open Parks & Public Spaces for In-Person Fitness - September 2020

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USA Swimming Waives Swim-a-Thon Fees Through 2021 - August 2020

ACE Urges Congress to Pass COVID-19 Youth Sports & Health Working Families Relief Act - August 2020

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