(CBS4) – A landmark public land and conservation bill, sponsored by Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, could be on President Trump’s desk by August. The Great American Outdoors Act passed the Senate last week and the House is expected to take it up before its summer recess.

“I’m proud to have worked closely with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this historic conservation bill,” Gardner said.

The Gunnison River (credit: Paul Chenault)

The bipartisan bill is hailed as the most significant conservation bill in more than 50 years. It permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund and guarantees the $900 Million the fund is allocated per year; a first since Congress created the program in 1965.

Because the fund has not been legislatively protected, for decades funds have been diverted from their intended purpose. The current bill would secure full permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Seventy percent of the fund’s contents will go to the National Parks Service, another 15% to the U.S. Forest Service, while the Bureau of Indian Education, the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service will each receive 5%.

Gardner is the lead sponsor on the bill and has been pushing to reauthorize the fund since he was elected to the Senate 5 years ago.

“One of the very first votes that I cast was to protect the Land and Water Conservation Fund.” Gardner said in a Zoom interview Tuesday.

“It was a measure that was so tight in terms of the vote count that Sen. (Michael) Bennet actually came over to the Republican cloakroom to check on me to make sure that I was okay as the vote was going forward. They had kept it open 45 minutes trying to get me to change my vote and I wouldn’t do it.”

The Great American Outdoors Act also provides $1.9 billion per year over the next five years to address the maintenance backlog on federal public lands. This $1.9 billion per year will come from oil and gas royalties. It will be called the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund.

The bill is expected to create 100,000 jobs across the county.


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