A fiscal year 2022 allocation of $2.8 billion was proposed by the Interior and Agriculture departments on June 3. The move will support projects, grants and programs authorized in the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA).
RVIA stated the proposed investments will help push the Biden-Harris administration’s “America the Beautiful” initiative, a decade-long national conservation effort supporting economies, outdoor recreation and public land access.
“One of the best investments we can make is in stewarding the lands and waters that sustain us and the generations to come,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said. “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.”
GAOA established the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF), which authorized up to $1.9 billion per year to reduce deferred maintenance on public lands and at Indian schools.
“Deferred maintenance means a backlog of much-needed repairs and improvements throughout our managed lands,” Haaland said. “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.”
The act also provided permanent annual funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million. The funds will secure public access, improve recreational opportunities, protect watersheds and wildlife and preserve ecosystem benefits for local communities.
“Our national forests and grasslands are places of refuge and enjoyment for millions of visitors every year,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “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.”
The Interior and USDA Forest Service are slated to support more than 20,000 jobs and generate nearly $2.2 billion in local communities through the LRF. Deferred maintenance projects planned by the USDA Forest Service will total 484 initiatives, in addition to 63 projects planned by the Interior. Improving recreation facilities, water and utility infrastructure are at the forefront, along with focus on schools and historic structures. Other projects aim to increase visitor access by restoring roads, trails, bridges and parking areas.
In addition to LRF funding, investments through the LWCF will enhance recreation opportunities across the U.S. while safeguarding natural areas and cultural heritage sites, along with providing grants to states and local governments for locally driven projects. The fiscal year 2022 budget allocated $700.9 million to LWCF land acquisition and grant programs within the Interior.
According to the Interior’s Office of Policy Analysis, the department’s lands hosted an estimated 501 million visits in fiscal year 2019. The number supported an estimated added value of $34.8 billion, along with $60.6 billion in economic output and nearly 469,000 jobs.
The Forest Service will invest more than $94 million to fund 28 projects under the Forest Legacy Program, with another $123 million targeted Land Acquisiton Program projects.
Those interested can view a list of the Interior’s LCWF funding here.
In addition to the funds, the fiscal year 2022 budget also estimates $128.3 million will be available at the Interior for state LWCF grants, through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act.