President Biden’s Budget Invests $2.8 Billion To Support Economies, Outdoor Recreation, & Access To Public Lands

The Departments of the Interior and Agriculture announced their proposed Fiscal Year 2022 allocations of $2.8 billion in projects, grants and programs authorized in the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) to support economies, outdoor recreation, and access to public lands. The investments are consistent with and help advance the America the Beautiful initiative, the decade-long, voluntary national conservation effort that the Biden-Harris administration recently launched.

GAOA established the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF) and authorized up to $1.9 billion per year from Fiscal Year 2021 through Fiscal Year 2025 to reduce deferred maintenance on public lands and at Indian schools. GAOA also provided permanent, full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually to secure public access and improve recreational opportunities on public lands, protect watersheds and wildlife, and preserve ecosystem benefits for local communities.

“One of the best investments we can make is in stewarding the lands and waters that sustain us and the generations to come. Today we are making critical investments that will create tens of thousands of jobs, safeguard the environment, and help ensure that national parks and public lands are ready to meet the challenges of climate change and increased visitation,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “Deferred maintenance means a backlog of much-needed repairs and improvements throughout our managed lands. In particular, I am encouraged that funding for Bureau of Indian Education schools will help ensure that we are providing a safe and reliable space where students and educators alike can focus on learning.”

“Our national forests and grasslands are places of refuge and enjoyment for millions of visitors every year,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These investments set the framework for better access, experiences and partnerships that not only promote tourism and recreation, but also protect America’s public lands while creating jobs and opportunities in rural communities.”

National Parks & Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF)

Interior and USDA Forest Service deferred maintenance projects for Fiscal Year 2022 are projected to support over 20,000 jobs and generate nearly $2.2 billion in local communities. The investments will advance the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to create good-paying, union jobs and build back better by addressing critical deferred maintenance needs in America’s national parks, national wildlife refuges, recreation areas, national forests, grasslands and Bureau of Indian Education schools.

The 484 LRF deferred maintenance projects planned by USDA Forest Service and 63 projects planned by Interior will improve recreation facilities, water and utility infrastructure, schools and other historic structures. Other projects aim to increase visitor access by restoring and repairing roads, trails, bridges and parking areas.

The investments included in the budget request for the LRF will enable Interior to address more than $1.2 billion of the deferred maintenance backlog across the nation and supports Interior’s overall portfolio of infrastructure investment.

When combined with the previous year, Fiscal Year 2022 LRF funding will enable the two agencies to pursue deferred maintenance projects in all 50 states and multiple U.S. territories.

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)

According to Interior’s Office of Policy Analysis, in Fiscal Year 2019, Interior’s lands hosted an estimated 501 million visits, supporting an estimated $34.8 billion in value added, $60.6 billion in economic output, and about 469,000 jobs. Fiscal Year 2020 also saw unprecedented visitation levels to national forest and grasslands as Americans sought respite and relief outdoors during the pandemic. In total, national forest lands hosted more than 168 million visits, supported approximately 161,000 jobs and contributed $13.5 billion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.

Investments through LWCF will enhance recreation opportunities across America to safeguard important natural areas and cultural heritage sites, and provide grants to states and local governments to support locally driven conservation and outdoor recreation projects. Projects were selected for Fiscal Year 2022 to align with core Biden-Harris administration priorities, including strengthening resilience to climate change impacts, protecting biodiversity and other natural resource values, benefitting underserved or at-risk communities, and demonstrating strong local partnership support.

The Fiscal Year 2022 budget allocates $700.9 million for LWCF land acquisition and grant programs within the Interior Department, which includes $19 million from discretionary funds. The Forest Service will invest more than $94 million to fund 28 projects under the Forest Legacy Program and $123 million to fund Land Acquisition Program projects, including projects for recreation access and other needs.

The enactment of the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020 was the culmination of a decades-long bipartisan effort to fulfill the promise of the original Land and Water Conservation Fund Act and provide full, permanent funding for LWCF programs. In 2020, $900 million in mandatory LWCF resources was made available through GAOA for conservation and recreation activities managed by Interior and the USDA Forest Service. In May, Interior announced $150 million in grant opportunities for local communities through the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership grant program. Funded through the LWCF, this competitive program enables urban communities to create and reinvigorate outdoor recreation spaces, and connect people and the outdoors in economically underserved communities.

In addition to these funds, the Fiscal Year 2022 budget also estimates $128.3 million will be available at Interior for state LWCF grants through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act.

Funding authorized through GAOA is subject to a 5.7% sequestration reduction.

This article was originally shared by CleanTechnica.