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Great American Outdoors Act a bright spot of 2020

Great American Outdoors Act a bright spot of 2020 Great American Outdoors Act a bright spot of 2020

It’s 2020 and it has another twist.

You recall a recent piece talking about the Natural Resources Board altering the antlerless harvest quotas and a few other things related to the deer season. If you do, you’ll recall the circumstances prompting that move were maybe a little odd. Now the NRB will be holding a special virtual meeting starting at 7 a.m. on Thursday, July 30, to revisit that decision and determine if it was the correct one.

They may be changing everything again. By the time you read this, submitting written comments will be next to impossible. You can view a webcast of the event live from the NRB agenda page on the DNR website. It’s another new twist to saga known as 2020. And, just this past week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed The Great American Outdoors Act with overwhelming bipartisan support, on a vote of 310-107. Not only did they pass it, but they passed the version the Senate passed a few weeks prior, which means only the president needs to sign the bill. He has expressed a willingness to do so if what the bill looks like when it touches his deck is the version the Senate passed.

Hailed as a once-in-a-lifetime event, this bill garnered support from almost all the conservation non-profits, from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation League to Ducks Unlimited. As mentioned in an earlier piece, the Backwoods Hunters and Anglers aggressively led the social media campaign to keep the pressure on and make sure the bill passed.

It eliminates a loophole often used by elected representatives when it came to outdoor related projects. Officials would vote to support or put the project on the docket but they wouldn’t fund the project in the separate appropriations bill. So nothing got done.

For fiscal years 2021 through 2025, there shall be deposited into the fund an amount equal to 50 percent of all federal revenues from the development of oil, gas, coal, or alternative or renewable energy on federal lands and waters. Deposited amounts must not exceed $1.9 billion for any fiscal year.

The fund must be used for priority deferred maintenance projects in specifi ed systems that are administered by the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Education. Projects like upgrading boat landings, canoe launches, flood control structures, hiking trails, motorized trails, and equestrian trails, campgrounds, and trout stream renewal are some of things that the monies can be used for. Once the item is approved, funding is already in place.

As is increasingly pointed out and made aware to more and more outdoor users of public lands, they don’t really belong to the state, county, or federal government. Those lands belong to all of us citizens. Though the hunters and fishermen contribute the most by far to the funding of wildlife conservation around the U.S. and the world, we rarely get the credit. But access affects all users equally. So does poorly maintained infrastructure, from washed out roads to a failed flood control structure turning a Waterfowl Production Area into just another dried up pothole. Opponents of public lands like to tout things like tax base and the fairness of certain states having the majority of its acreage in public lands. Yet that state receives the majority of its tourism because of those public lands.

And what they won’t say is a major portion of those acres are in an active military test range for missiles and the original surface test site of nuclear weapons, meaning no one wants to own or even spend a lot of time on the site which is still somewhat radioactive. You can’t have it both ways.

Yes, there are people that take this way to the extreme. But, tell me, in what part of society is that not occurring on a daily basis? It’s 2020, the year of the kooks, nutburgers, conspiracy theorists and deconstructionists.

Yet, in this crazy year, a piece of legislation gets passed that was promised by Congress back in 1964. It’s as important as the original national parks and forest legislation and The Pittman Robertson Act. If you made a phone call, sent an email, letter, signed a petition, you played a part in ensuring future generations will have place to hunt elk, deer, fish camp, or just walk in the woods or prairie.