Victory for Public Lands!

In a move that will get more kids outdoors and protect public lands nationwide, today the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Natural Resources Management Act (the Senate passed the bill last week). The act is a sweeping lands protection package that establishes permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, includes the Every Kid Outdoors Act, and protects more than two million acres of public land, including the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks, Emery County and Yellowstone Gateway, and the Methow Headwaters Withdrawal. It also creates a new national monument honoring civil rights icon Medgar Evers in Mississippi.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is America’s most successful land conservation program and benefits every state and nearly every county in the country. LWCF combines two complementary programs that work at the federal, state, and local levels. The federal program uses royalty revenue received from offshore oil and gas development to acquire high-value properties to add to America’s national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. Lands acquired through the fund increase recreation access and make parks and forests easier to manage.

The LWCF’s state program provides grants for the development and improvement of community parks, open spaces, recreation facilities, and public access points. After more than 50 years of success, communities in every part of the nation rely on the LWCF for both near-term projects and complex conservation and recreation plans for the future.

The act includes the Every Kids Outdoors Act, which formally authorizes for seven years the Every Kid in a Park program (now called Every Kid Outdoors) to encourage children to visit their national parks and public lands. Every Kid Outdoors provides fourth graders with a free-entry park pass for themselves and their families to visit all of our federally managed public lands, waters, and shores. In its first two years, the program reached over two million fourth graders and leveraged nearly $5 million in private funding to support transportation costs for children from Title 1 schools across the US.

“Dozens of organizations and tens of thousands of people across the country voiced their support for this vital program, including over 1,000 kids who signed postcards about the value of the program,” said Jackie Ostfeld, director of Sierra Club Outdoors and chair of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids. “I’m grateful to see our elected leaders come together in this time of division and create a bipartisan bill to make sure every fourth grader in the US has the chance to visit one of their national parks and become a lifelong advocate for conservation.”

Sierra Club supporters across the US voiced strong support for the Natural Resources Management Act, and we are thrilled that Congress listened.

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