ATLANTA — Both environmental groups and businesses are hailing congressional passage this week of legislation aimed at preserving the scenic beauty of America’s public parklands into perpetuity.
The Great American Outdoors Act, passed by large bipartisan majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, will support the Land and Water Conservation Fund with $900 million a year and provide $9.5 billion over five years to repair deteriorating infrastructure in the nation’s public spaces.
“Protecting and enhancing our public lands is an essential part of the American ethos,” Jeannette Gayer, executive director of Environment Georgia, said. “Whether it’s parks along the Chattahoochee, Georgia’s national forests or the Cumberland [Island] National Seashore, Georgians love and utilize public lands. This bill is not only an investment in outdoor space but also in our health and psyche.”
Business leaders say the legislation also will boost the nation’s economy, creating 100,000 direct and indirect jobs nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Outdoor recreation plays a major role in Georgia’s economy, accounting for 144,000 jobs and $12.3 billion in annual economic impact.
“In the wake of this economic crisis, supporting conservation and the local economies in Georgia and beyond is more important than ever before,” said Ben Speciale, president of Yamaha’s U.S. Marine Business Unit based in Kennesaw. “We applaud Congress for passing this historic legislation.”
The bill now heads to President Trump, who has pledged to sign it.