The U.S. Senate moved forward on considering the Great American Outdoors (GAO) Act (S.3422) on Monday, Sen. Joe Machin’s (D-WV) landmark legislation.
While the bill appears to have wide bipartisan Senate support, 48 livestock and natural resource groups oppose the bill.
In March, Manchin introduced the legislation to provide mandatory permanent and full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and address the $21 billion maintenance backlog in national parks and other federal land management agencies.
“The Great American Outdoors Act will create jobs while protecting and expanding access to the great outdoors across our country for everyone, whether that be hunting, fishing, or hiking in the Monongahela National Forest or rafting down the Gauley River, just to give a few examples from my home state of West Virginia,” Manchin said. “This is a shining example of Democrats and Republicans coming together to put politics aside to do what is best for conserving the natural resources of this great nation. Passage of this bill will be a historic achievement, and I believe this will be one of the most significant conservation bills ever enacted into law.”
However, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) and the Public Lands Council (PLC) and many other affiliate organizations wrote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, along with other senators urging them to reject the GAO Act and for Congress to retain its role in safeguarding public lands by opposing the GAO Act.
The GAO Act as written creates more than $14 billion in new, mandatory spending and gives federal agencies free rein to spend $360 million per year solely to acquire new private land without any oversight from Congress, according to a statement from NCBA. This raises concern among the 48 livestock and natural resource groups who signed the joint letter, as the groups point out the blatant conflict by pairing the mounting disrepair of current land under federal control and allowing rampant acquisition without accounting for management of future land acquisitions.
"As introduced, the GAO Act, and every other bill that preceded it that contained similar provisions, is an irresponsible way to fix a very real problem. Currently, land management agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management face staggering backlogs of much-needed maintenance...If passed, the GAO Act sentences hundreds of millions of acres of American land and water to a poorly-managed future," the groups wrote.
To read the full letter and review a complete list of signatories, click here.