President Biden’s Budget Invests $2.8 Billion to Support Economies, Outdoor Recreation and Access to Public Lands
Today, the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior announced their proposed Fiscal Year 2023 allocations of $2.8 billion in projects, grants and programs authorized in the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) to support local economies, outdoor recreation, access to public lands and voluntary national conservation efforts in every U.S. state.
GAOA established the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF), authorizing up to $1.9 billion per year from Fiscal Year 2021 through Fiscal Year 2025 to reduce deferred maintenance on public lands and at Indian schools. GAOA also provides permanent, full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually to secure public access and improve recreation opportunities on public lands; protect watersheds and wildlife; and preserve ecosystem benefits for local communities.
“We have already seen the incredible impact these investments have made toward providing equitable access to public lands and to expand our conservation efforts, all while bringing much-needed opportunity to rural communities around the country,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Every year, millions of visitors take advantage of the outdoor recreation opportunities offered by our national forests and grasslands, and these continued investments help solidify uninterrupted access to these national treasures for our future generations.”
“Millions of people each year enjoy our nation’s treasured public lands,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “Along with President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Great American Outdoors Act is making critical investments by funding much-needed repairs and improvements and creating good-paying jobs and economic opportunities in communities nationwide.”
Details of Interior’s FY 2023 project funding and distribution are available on the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund and Land and Water Conservation Fund websites.
Details of the USDA Forest Service FY 2023 project funding and distribution are available on the agency’s Great American Outdoors Act website.
National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund (LRF)
USDA Forest Service and Interior deferred maintenance projects funded by GAOA for Fiscal Year 2023 are projected to support over 18,700 jobs and generate $2 billion in local communities. The investments will advance the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to create good-paying, union jobs and build back better by addressing critical deferred maintenance needs in America’s national parks, national wildlife refuges, recreation areas, national forests, grasslands and Bureau of Indian Education schools.
The 96 LRF deferred maintenance bundled projects planned by USDA Forest Service and 63 projects planned by Interior will improve recreation facilities, water and utility infrastructure, schools and other historic structures. Other projects aim to increase visitor access by restoring and repairing roads, trails, bridges and parking areas.
In FY 2020, Interior bureaus estimate they hosted about 378 million visits to the national parks, national wildlife refuges and hatcheries, recreation areas, and Bureau of Reclamation sites. For FY 2020, Interior’s Office of Policy Analysis estimated that recreation on Interior’s lands contributed roughly $26.1 billion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product and supported about 347,000 jobs. In 2020, national forest lands hosted more than 168 million visits, supported approximately 161,000 jobs and contributed $13.5 billion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
The investments included in the budget request for the LRF will enable Interior and USDA Forest Service to address a combined total of more than $1.8 billion of the deferred maintenance backlog across the nation and supports the overall portfolio of infrastructure investment.
When combined with the previous years, Fiscal Year 2023 LRF funding will enable the two agencies to pursue deferred maintenance projects in all 50 states and multiple U.S. territories.
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
The LWCF program has a long and important legacy and continues to protect unique and important at-risk natural and cultural resources, strengthen the resilience and biodiversity of our lands, waters, and ecosystems to climate change impacts, increase access to outdoor recreation, engage strong local partnership support, and provide benefits to a broad audience that includes underserved or at-risk communities.
The FY 2023 budget allocates $900 million for LWCF projects and programs managed by the Department of the Interior and the USDA Forest Service. This includes $418.7 million for Federal land acquisition programs and projects and $481.3 million for state and local grants. These investments will provide recreation opportunities across America, safeguard important natural areas and cultural heritage sites on public lands and support locally driven conservation and outdoor recreation projects though grants to states and local governments.
In FY 2023, Interior will allocate $681.9 million for LWCF programs, including $294.8 million for Federal land acquisition projects and programs. Interior’s LWCF land acquisition projects acquire critical lands or easements from willing sellers to protect at-risk natural, cultural, or historic resources including critical habitats and migration corridors, and increase access to outdoor recreation. The USDA Forest Service will invest $94 million to fund 15 Forest Legacy Program projects and $124 million to fund 15 Land Acquisition Program projects, including projects for recreation access and other needs. Interior will invest more than $148 million to fund 47 projects in as many as 35 states across the country, in addition to smaller recreation access projects.
Interior proposes to allocate another $387 million to support conservation and recreation state and local grants, which includes state LWCF formula grants and Competitive Outdoor Recreation Legacy Program grants. Interior estimates another $125.2 million will be available for state LWCF formula grants through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act.
Funding authorized through GAOA is subject to a 5.7% sequestration reduction, which becomes available for obligation in the next year.