DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado’s national parks, forests and public lands will receive hundreds of millions of dollars for repairs and restoration after President Donald Trump signed The Great American Outdoors Act into law.
It is the most significant conservation law in 50 years.
Trump is an unlikely ally of conservationists, having lifted protections for millions of acres of public land, but the new law doesn’t just help the environment, it helps the economy, and it helps Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who wrote the bill.
“I’ve been working on the Land and Water Conservation Fund for decades beginning with the Great Sand Dunes National Park. I’m excited that we got this done. There are some groups out there that are partisan Democrat interest groups, but that’s not this bill. This bill is a Democrat and Republican success.”
Colorado’s Democratic Congressman Joe Neguse, whose district includes Rocky Mountain National Park, carried the bill in the House. It provides $9 billion for national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife refuges. It also permanently allocates $900 million a year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has paid for hundreds of outdoor recreation projects in Colorado.
“It’s not just in those national parks and roads, but we’re talking about ballparks and swimming pools and recreation centers and urban parks that provide access to minority communities,” said Gardner. “It really is something that’s going to benefit every county, and there are few things that you could say that have that level of impact.”
It’s economic impact, he says, is also significant.
“Think about hard hit mountain towns of Colorado that saw their ski season come to an abrupt halt back in March. They’re going to be some of the prime beneficiaries as people are hired to build trails, forests, visitor centers and roads throughout our BLM grounds. This really is a jobs package.”
Jessica Goad, Deputy Director of Conservation Colorado – which has criticized Gardner’s record on the environment – says the new law is a start.
“If we really appreciate and enjoy the outdoors we need to make sure that our public lands are not impacted and devastated by climate change.”
Money for the land and water conservation fund comes from royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling.
To celebrate the new law, the Interior Secretary designated August 4th “Great American Outdoors Day,” making access to national parks and public lands free on this day every year.