One week to the day after President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) into law, members of the outdoor community, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, gathered in the shadows of the Roosevelt Arch at Yellowstone National Park for a celebration.
“Bold acts and brave consistency are what got us here,” said Jennifer Doherty, RMEF director of lands. “RMEF joins the rest of the conservation community represented here today and the public, who overwhelmingly supported this act, in celebration.”
The GAOA permanently and fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a program designed to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. Thanks to LWCF, national parks as well as national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers and lakes, community parks, trails and ball fields in every state were set aside for Americans to use and enjoy.
RMEF played an intimate and key role in the process. In March 2020, Senators Steve Daines and Cory Gardner secured a meeting with President Trump and several staffers in Washington D.C. Daines then reached out to RMEF to acquire high-quality maps, photos and other details about RMEF’s Falls Creek project, which permanently protected 442 acres of wildlife and riparian habitat along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front and greatly improved access to 27,000 acres of public land beyond.
During their meeting, Daines shared project details with the president including how $250,000 in LWCF funds helped close the transaction. President Trump then stated that “sealed the deal” for him and he called on Congress to send him a bill to provide permanent, dedicated funding to LWCF.
For RMEF alone, LWCF so far provided millions of dollars to help permanently protect more than 162,000 acres of America’s most important elk habitat and open public access to more than double that acreage across 12 states.
“Now more than ever before we can work with our agency partners and private landowners with certainty in our quest to secure opportunities for protection of critical wildlife areas and increased public access all while maintaining the infrastructure needed to support our lifestyles. RMEF salutes the collective conservation community, our elected officials and the public,” added Doherty.
The GAOA also addresses a backlog of maintenance issues at national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other federal lands to enhance the experiences of sportsmen and women who use the areas to hunt, fish, camp, view wildlife and enjoy other forms of outdoor recreation.
(Photo source: Staff of Senator Daines)