Proposed law could protect Michigan’s land and waterways

U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Debbie Stabenow (MI) today helped pass bipartisan legislation that would guarantee funding towards public lands maintenance and renovation projects in Michigan and across the country.

The Great American Outdoors Act would both permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million dollars annually.

The LWCF has helped promote outdoor recreation and has established and expanded parks and wild areas across the country.

Over the past five decades, LWCF has provided $342.4 million in funding to hundreds of projects to protect, preserve, and expand cherished public lands across Michigan.

This is critical to both conservation efforts and the state’s economy.

“Our National Parks, public lands, lakeshores and waters in Michigan and across the country are not just unique natural resources and drivers of economic growth – they are defining aspects of the American experience,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan bill would ensure we have the annual funding needed to protect these national treasures now and for generations to come. I’ve seen firsthand how Michigan has benefited thanks to support from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and I’m pleased that we were able to come together and pass this bipartisan bill.”

“In Michigan, hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation are part of our way of life. The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure that Michigan’s national treasures like Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshores remain protected for our children and grandchildren. In addition to protecting our public lands, this bill supports thousands of good paying jobs that are part of our Pure Michigan tourism economy,” said Senator Stabenow.

By guaranteeing $900 million in yearly funding for LWCF, the Great American Outdoors Act will finally ensure the necessary resources to protect and preserve many of Michigan’s natural treasures such as the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Huron, Ottawa and Hiawatha National Forests, and the North Country National Scenic Trail.

This funding helps protect the lands and waterways that are important to Michigan’s economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the outdoor recreation industry generates $26.6 billion in consumer spending and 232,000 jobs throughout the state.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that 4.9 million people hunt, fish, or take part in wildlife-watching in Michigan every year, which contributes over $5.1 billion annually to the state’s economy.

The bill would also establish a $9.5 billion “National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Fund” to address the backlog of maintenance projects at federal lands managed by the National Park Service, United States Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service, among other agencies.

This fund will help address the $19 billion backlog of deferred maintenance projects at national parks and other public lands, including the $50.3 million in overdue projects to improve facilities and visitor experiences throughout Michigan’s national parks.

Peters and Stabenow were joined by 57 of their Senate colleagues as cosponsors of this bipartisan bill. Various environmental conservation and outdoor sporstmen groups at the federal, state and local levels have also endorsed the bill, including the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Nature Conservancy.

“The climate crisis threatens our land, natural resources and communities, which is why now, more than ever, we need to dedicate resources to funding land and water conservation and our public parks,” said Lisa Wozniak, Executive Director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “Covid-19 has reminded us of how important our parks and public lands are for our health, recreation and solace. The outdoors are part of who we are as Michiganders, from city parks in Detroit to national forests in the U.P. We applaud Sen. Peters and Stabenow for their leadership on the Great American Outdoors Act and call on the House of Representatives to work to swiftly pass this important legislation.”

“We commend Senators Peters and Stabenow for their commitment to ensuring our national parks and public lands like Isle Royale National Park and Michigan Islands National Wildlife Refuge can continue to welcome millions of visitors every year,” said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association. “Our parks face billions of dollars in needed repairs, from aging water systems and visitor centers to crumbling roads and trails. But today, because of the dedication of park advocates across the country and the leadership of our champions in Congress, we are one step closer to fixing our parks, preserving America’s legacy and providing jobs in communities that desperately need them.”

“Today, Senators Stabenow and Peters joined with their colleagues in the U.S. Senate to deliver a major win for Michigan’s outdoors,” said Helen Taylor, State Director, The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. “The Great American Outdoors Act will not only help rejuvenate the outdoor-based economy in Michigan, it will aid in our state’s recovery from several of the economic, health and social challenges we are facing. We are grateful for the leadership shown by Senators Stabenow and Peters in this effort to create jobs, expand recreational access for all and protect our treasured landscapes for the future. We urge the House of Representatives to quickly pass this important investment in Michigan’s and our nation’s natural resources.”

“Michigan consistently ranks as one of the top five states in the country in the number of recreational fishermen and their economic impact,” said Glenn Hughes, President of the American Sportfishing Association. “The recreational areas, trails and waterways supported by the Land and Water Conservation Fund are critical to providing recreational fishing opportunities in Michigan and across the country. In addition, better maintaining our national parks, forests and refuges will greatly improve outdoor recreation experiences at these areas. The sportfishing industry is grateful to Sens. Peters and Stabenow for supporting the Great American Outdoors Act, which will support these important programs for the benefit of anglers today and for generations to come.”

Peters and Stabenow have led numerous efforts to bolster environmental conservation and lands and waters that are vital to Michigan’s economy.

In February 2019, the Senators helped pass the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act, which was signed into law in March 2019.

This bill included over 100 provisions that provide protections for our national parks and wild rivers and permanently authorizes the LWCF.

Last month, the senators fought for and secured the inclusion of numerous bipartisan provisions that would directly strengthen environmental and water quality efforts in Michigan within the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2020 that advanced to the full Senate.

These measures include a $375 reauthorization of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an assessment on shoreline protection and resiliency in areas affected by the recent rises in Great Lakes water levels, an increase in funding for projects working to prevent invasive Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes and a requirement to direct the EPA to establish drinking water standard for PFOS and PFOA chemicals.

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