Trump signs US$3B-a-year plan to boost conservation, parks

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Trump signs US$3B-a-year plan to boost conservation, parks

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump today signed into law legislation that will devote nearly US$3 billion annually to conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands. The measure was overwhelmingly approved by Congress.

"There hasn't been anything like this since Teddy Roosevelt, I suspect," Trump said about the 26th president, who created many national parks, forests and monuments to preserve the nation's natural resources.

Supporters say the Great American Outdoors Act is the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century. Opponents counter that the money isn't enough to cover the estimated US$20 billion maintenance backlog on federally owned lands.

The law requires full, mandatory funding of the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund and addresses the maintenance backlog facing America's national parks and public lands. The law would spend about US$900 million a year — double current spending — on the conservation fund and another US$1.9 billion per year on improvements at national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and range lands.

Trump in his budgets to Congress had previously recommended slashing the amount of money allocated to the fund, but he reversed course and called for full funding in March.

Supporters say the legislation will create at least 100,000 jobs, while restoring national parks and repairing trails and forest systems.

The park maintenance backlog has been a problem for decades, through Republican and Democratic administrations.

The legislation's opponents, mostly Republicans, complain it would not eliminate an estimated $20 billion maintenance backlog on 640 million acres (259 million hectares) of federally owned lands. The legislation authorises US$9.5 billion for maintenance over five years.

Lawmakers from Gulf Coast states also complained that their states receive too small a share of revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling that is used to pay for the conservation fund.


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