With a 310-107 vote on Wednesday, the United States House of Representatives passed landmark legislation in the form of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA). The bill now goes to the desk of the president, who has already indicated that he will sign it. Once enacted, GAOA will permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which in turn funds the Forest Legacy Program (FLP).
Since 1990, the FLP has identified and conserved environmentally important forest areas that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses in partnership with state agencies. The FLP has been used to protect and enhance forest landscapes across the west. The benefits of FLP projects are myriad. In Montana, the FLP supports the conservation of habitat for critically threatened species, including grizzly bears and wolves. In Washington, the FLP preserves water quality in a fishing-dependent region. Throughout the west, the FLP supports rural communities by keeping working forests working and provides public access to support the outdoor recreation industry, worth $887 billion. The importance of the FLP to all western states will be highlighted in a forthcoming publication from the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition in 2021.
For more information on the historic passage of the GAOA, please see the press release from our partner organization, the National Association of State Foresters.