Great American Outdoors Act
What it Means for Utah’s National Parks and Why They Still Need You
The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is monumental for all public lands, but for parks like Zion National Park, this new funding will begin to pave the way for clearing critical portions of the park’s over $70 million in back-logged maintenance repairs. The law’s passage secures over $6.5 billion for the National Park Service over a 5-year period and also grants nearly $3 billion to be shared across the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, National Wildlife Refuges, and the Bureau of Indian Education. The impact for Zion will not be immediate, but through informed planning, the direct benefits will be realized over time.
Zion Forever Project’s Executive Director, Lyman Hafen, feels this is one of the most ambitious bills Congress has ever passed. “It may seem like an overstatement, but in over 30 years of working in public lands partnership this really does seem to be among the most significant pieces of legislation we have seen addressed for our parks and monuments. With park budgets remaining stagnant over the past 15 years and with visitation and other pressures mounting, this long overdue funding will be put to the best possible use.”
“It may seem like an overstatement, but in over 30 years of working in public lands partnership this really does seem to be among the most significant pieces of legislation we have seen addressed for our parks and monuments. With park budgets remaining stagnant over the past 15 years and with visitation and other pressures mounting, this long overdue funding will be put to the best possible use.”
– Lyman Hafen, Executive Director, Zion Forever Project
This law also secures the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF provides matching funds for local and state governments to acquire land for conservation, recreation, and the enjoyment of all Americans. To date, the LWCF has helped secure over 7 million acres of conserved land adjacent to national parks and other national treasures. The now permanent funding means over $900 million each year for new projects. Funds from the LWCF have already been critical in past conservation efforts in our area, but here in Southern Utah those efforts will always rely on interested and willing landowners seeking to conserve their lands and preserve their natural heritage.
The Zion Forever Project will work closely with park partners preparing the park to be competitive in securing project funding through this program. Partnership and collaboration, across the public-private landscape, provides the margin of excellence needed in identifying and completing top line “shovel ready“ project priorities ensuring the highest and best use of this fund source in the seasons ahead.
While this legislation helps address long overdue maintenance projects, the future of funding our parks will require a chorus of voices from a broad community. The Act does not increase annual park budgets for yearly operations. Things like youth education programs, scientific research and sensitive resource conservation projects, as well as future infrastructure needs, will rely on the generosity of donors and supporters of all kinds.
“At Zion, collaboration and partnership has, and will continue to be needed to meet future park needs. This is how we get things done here. The work that Zion Forever is performing, in helping create linkages with a broader community base, is at the heart of what I mean when I talk about collaboration.”
– Jeff Bradybaugh, Zion National Park Superintendent