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Outdoors Act passage would pump needed revenue into parks, public lands

Published July 15, 2020
The Great American Outdoors Act goes before the House next week.

WASHINGTON (BRAIN) — The way Dave Wiens sees it, the Great American Outdoors Act could be the last chance to secure more trail funding for years to come.

"It's a once-in-a-generation bill that is the result of decades of advocacy work for recreation and our outdoor places," said Wiens, the International Mountain Bicycling Association executive director.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill next week after the Senate approved it 73-25 on June 17. If the House approves, the bill will go to President Donald Trump, who tweeted after the Senate vote that he would sign it.

In addition to funding trail maintenance and creation, the Great American Outdoors Act would put $2.8 billion per year to use to help parks and public lands. It would fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Bureau of Land Management.

IMBA and its partners fought to include the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in the bill because of those agencies' ties to mountain biking.

"The historic level of funding this bill would provide for trails and recreation can't be overstated," Wiens said. "Addressing the federal maintenance backlog means funding for more trails in more places. Fully funding LWCF lets us focus on funding mountain bike trails, rather than funding the program. If we are fortunate enough to see this become law, the hard work for trail advocates is just beginning."

Noa Banayan, PeopleForBikes' federal affairs manager, said the bill would go beyond helping trail advocacy.

"This bill will usher our national parks and public lands into the 21st century by addressing their nearly $20 billion backlog of deferred project costs," Banayan said. "From servicing rundown visitor centers to boosting neglected trail systems in need of maintenance, directing revenue from federal energy development into these spaces makes sense for a growing community of Americans seeking to recreate by bike in our public lands."

With the COVID-19 pandemic sparking bike sales and more people seeking to social distance in the outdoors, the bill's timing couldn't be better, Wiens said.

"Initially, the stay-at-home orders drove people outside because there wasn't much else to do," he said. "Once people got outside, however, people stayed there. We're getting reports of trail usage doubling, and even quintupling. It's amazing to see more people enjoying trail-based recreation, fresh air, and the natural world to experience how fantastic it is for our hearts, bodies and minds."

Banayan agreed.

"We're experiencing a bike boom in the midst of a pandemic, a situation that could only be true because people are finding more time on their hands and are choosing to spend it riding a bike," she said. "Their decisions are reinforced with every bike ride that brings enhanced mobility, possibly a good sweat, new positive experiences and ultimately, joy. Making sure people have access to safe spaces for recreation is a key principle in the Great American Outdoors Act, and its passage will expand opportunities for healthy recreation for all Americans."

IMBA has created a webpage to show support for the bill's passage in the House.

Topics associated with this article: Advocacy/Non-profits

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