Three members of the Florida delegation in the U.S. House–Democrats U.S. Reps. Donna Shalala and Darren Soto and Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast–have thrown their support behind U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham’s, R-SC, “Great American Outdoors Act.”
The proposal will establish permanent funds for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanent and send almost $22 billion for deferred projects on federal lands, including those at the National Parks and the Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund.
“Over the past five decades, LWCF has become the gold standard of conservation programs and has invested more than $303.5 million in South Carolina to protect its recreational areas and open spaces,” Cunningham said when he introduced the bill earlier this month. “Last year we permanently reauthorized LWCF and now the time has come to make its funding permanent. LWCF has enriched countless lives in the Lowcountry by protecting many of the places that make our community unique and irreplaceable, from the Folly Beach Boardwalk to Hunting Island State Park. I stand with our community, environmental and sportsmen groups, and business and tourism leaders to urge my colleagues to pass the Great American Outdoors Act as soon as possible, permanently fund LWCF and address the maintenance backlog across our national parks and public lands.”
Mast weighed in on why he was supporting the bill at the end of last week.
“Each year, our economy is driven by the millions of people who visit Florida to enjoy the outdoors, and more than that, our entire way of life is tied to preserving public land and protecting our environment,” Mast said. “This legislation builds on the progress we made last year to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund by making its funding permanent. The Great American Outdoors Act is a big step toward ensuring that our local water resources and public lands – including the Everglades – will be protected and preserved for generations to come.”
“Florida’s outdoor experience is the very cornerstone of the economy and quality of life for 20 million residents, supporting a $58 billion industry and 485,000 direct jobs. Over the last 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested more than $1 billion across Florida to conserve fish and wildlife habitat, and enhance public hunting and fishing access. The program makes it possible to leverage local resources, address maintenance backlogs, build marinas, youth athletic fields or playgrounds, and protect multi-billion restoration investments in America’s Everglades. Rep. Mast has been a strong advocate for the program, including cosponsoring the Land and Water Conservation Fund Reauthorization and Fairness Act, as well as supporting the Natural Resources Management Act to permanently reauthorize the program,” Mast’s office noted.
The bill was sent to the U.S. House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Budget Committees earlier this month.
U.S. Cory Gardiner, R-Col., introduced the bill in the upper chamber back in March. He has reeled in almost 60 cosponsors.
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