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Trump Signs Landmark Public Lands Bill

Jacob W. Frank / NPS
The overlook at the brink of the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, an example of deferred maintenance in Yellowstone National Park.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan bill being hailed as the biggest public lands and conservation legislation in a generation.

The legislation fully and permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million annually, and takes a big bite out of the National Park Service's $12 billion maintenance backlog with $9.5 billion over five years.

Jesse Prentice-Dunn, with the conservation group Center for Western Priorities, praised the bill, saying the Land and Water Conservation Fund "does all sorts of good work in creating new parks and increasing access to our existing public lands, whether it's trail heads or boat ramps. And then also in our national parks - which are so critical to so many economies - making sure that we can take care of our deferred maintenance and keep our facilities up to date as they age."

The LWCF will be replenished each year with royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling.

While the measures in the bill have long been priorities of Democrats, the bill was championed by Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and Montana Sen. Steve Daines, both Republicans facing tough reelection battles in Western states with huge swaths of public lands.

"The Great American Outdoors Act will create well over 100,000 jobs nationwide and thousands of jobs in Colorado in our mountain towns and recreation communities that were hit hard by the pandemic," Gardner said in a statement.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Maggie Mullen, at mmullen5@uwyo.edu.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Maggie Mullen is Wyoming Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. Her work has aired on NPR, Marketplace, Science Friday, and Here and Now. She was awarded a 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her story on the Black 14.
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