This month also saw movement in the Senate on the Great American Outdoors Act, Land and Water Conservation Fund. To the traditional Off-Road enthusiast, it would be easy to read the headlines as another fund setup to restrict the access to Public Lands championed by the more aggressive environment a groups. In general, this an unwarranted fear.
Established in the early 1960s as a funding source to, as noted from the USFS, provide money to federal, state and local governments to purchase land, water and wetlands for the benefit of all Americans. From majestic forests and snowcapped mountains, to wild rivers and stunning beaches, these acquisitions become part of your national forests. Lands and waters purchased through the LWCF are used to: Provide recreational opportunities….
In Nevada this money could be used to purchase lands, and with nearly 85% of our land already in the Public inventory the ‘shopping opportunities ‘to acquire more private land is scarce.
With the Senate legislation passed this month with broad bi-partisan support, the authorization was specifically broadened to target deferred maintenance on federally managed lands.
This means Staging Areas, Managed Campgrounds, Existing Trails, that have been ignored for decades can now be funded for repair.
There are some real jewels in this legislation which include
- The source of the funding remains a tax on the extraction industries that are operating on federally managed lands, or offshore drilling.
- The funding is mandatory.
- The fund may not be used outside of the program – Since inception congress has redirected more than 22 BILLION DOLLARS to other projects.
Some of the opposition in the Senate revolved around the inability to redirect funds to other projects preferred by those individual senators. The new legislation is similar to the Nevada OHV fund, where all monies are protected from other uses.
This legislation has initially been opposed by the Executive branch where it was proposed that the funding be cut 97 percent year after year. While the decision from the president to suddenly support the legislation may be politically motivated, or may involve ‘back room handshake deals” everyone in the Off-Road community should be pleased by the fact that the bill is going over to the House to be considered before the July 4th recess.
SSORA looks to this funding as a positive step in the right direction to finally address some stalled projects within our largest land manager the Bureau of Land management’s purview. We remain hopeful that this will stimulate some movement on stalled Resource Management Plans, and Travel Management Plans. Movement that is necessary to continue developing Nevada’s Statewide trail system.