An Investment in America’s Future

August 7, 2020
Weekly Columns

Arkansas is home to 2 million acres of national forest, a national park, America’s very first national river and several national wildlife refuges. I’ve made countless memories in these and other parks across the country, which is why I was glad to see President Trump sign the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) into law on Aug. 4. This bill marks the single greatest investment into U.S. public lands since President Theodore Roosevelt.

Unfortunately, deferred maintenance projects have plagued our public lands nationwide. To address this issue, the GAOA establishes the long-overdue National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which will receive up to $1.9 billion per year to fund the maintenance. These improvements will range from fixing potholes to clearing overgrown trails. The GAOA also invests in future recreational access by permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Since its inception in 1965, LWCF has been used to improve public recreational access and protect Arkansas federal recreation areas like the Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests and the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.

However, passing the GAOA doesn’t mean we can pack up and call it a day. Our current situation is indicative of a greater underlying problem in how we manage public lands. Congress needs more oversight when it comes to public lands, and it also needs to start using money for long-term solutions. These issues did not arise overnight; they’ve stemmed from years of neglect. We need a comprehensive plan to manage every acre of public land, monitoring and improving it as needed. I hope that the GAOA kickstarts this effort and that we can continue conserving our public lands for generations to come.