From our iconic national parks and fire management infrastructure to migratory birding grounds and elementary schools, the Great American Outdoors Act is a historic investment in our public lands.
By investing billions of dollars towards infrastructure projects, this law helps ensure that our public lands are ready to meet the challenges of climate change, while also investing in the American economy by creating good-paying jobs. It also improves visitors' experiences and safety on public lands by making much-needed repairs on trails, campgrounds, roads, buildings and other key infrastructure.
Since GAOA’s initial implementation in 2021, the Department of the Interior has funded 276 projects that had been delayed, improving the condition of roads, buildings and other structures and facilities in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and several U.S. territories. GAOA’s Legacy Restoration Fund authorizes approximately $1.6 billion annually to the Department of the Interior through 2025 to address deferred maintenance and repair backlogs in the National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Education, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In recognition of GAOA’s contributions to our nation’s public lands, entrance fees will be waived on August 4 at all lands managed by the Department. Other fees, such as overnight camping, cabin rentals, group day use and use of special areas, remain in effect. As we celebrate GAOA’s third anniversary, we’d like to share seven things to love about the impact of its Legacy Restoration Fund:
GAOA’s Legacy Restoration Fund is improving more than 3,000 infrastructure assets throughout the country. This includes over 300 housing buildings for employees, volunteers and teachers; over 300 trails, campgrounds and recreation sites; and repairing over 1,400 visitor service resources. For example, after Loon Lake Recreation Area in Oregon was hit by a storm in 2019 that caused severe damage, funding helped repair essential infrastructure such as restrooms and drinking water system.
Since 2021, GAOA’s Legacy Restoration Fund projects have supported an average of 17,000 jobs and generated an average of $1.8 billion for local economies annually. Funding is also contributing to training the next generation in traditional trades by working with youth corps and funding teams of federal employees who mobilize regionally to work on smaller scope construction, demolition, rehabilitation and preservation and provide training and apprenticeship opportunities to the youth.
GAOA is helping provide memorable experiences to the hundreds of millions of people who visit our public lands every year. Legacy Restoration Fund projects are improving safety and access on our public lands and repairing infrastructure for hiking, wildlife watching, hunting, fishing and other recreational activities. For example, the BLM is rehabilitating the Punta Gorda Light Station in California to eliminate safety hazards to the visiting public. Work includes structural repairs, constructing walking trails and helping ensure that new facilities are durable and weather resistant.
The repairs made through GAOA’S Legacy Restoration Fund support biodiversity and preserve ecosystem health to provide safe habitats for wildlife and plants. Across the country, funding is deployed to improve infrastructure that protects endangered species, maintains habitat and reduces pollution.
At Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, FWS will maintain roads and trails to protect natural resources by improving fish passages and reducing impacts of off-trail use. In Texas, Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge is modernizing the refuge’s infrastructure and improve facilities to educate the public about the importance of maintaining habitat for the endangered Attwater Prairie Chicken. At San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in California, funding is modernizing water control structures that provide wetland and riparian habitat for waterbirds and species of special concern. These infrastructure improvements will support wildlife habitat and improve recreation opportunities.
Over 2,200 students and faculty will benefit from Legacy Restoration Fund improvements to BIE-funded schools annually. Improvements help ensure schools are operational, safe and include modernized educational facilities and housing, to create a better learning environment for all. At Shonto Preparatory Elementary School, the BIE is using funds to replace the current Shonto campus, which consists of seven major buildings and several smaller support structures. Upon completion of the new facilities and the disposal of existing school buildings, additional maintenance will occur including replacing the current water distribution system, rehabilitating and replacing pavement and improving athletic field areas.
The Great American Outdoors Act is helping tell the story of our nation’s history and protecting cultural and historic resources across the country. Legacy Restoration Fund investments are improving historic sites and structures so they endure long into the future, for present and future generations to continue to enjoy and learn from. An example of these improvements includes Maintenance Action Teams restoring an 1830s-era Commissary, one of the oldest buildings at Fort Smith National Historic Site located in Arkansas. By restoring this site, visitors may experience and understand the structure’s significance and its impact on history for years to come.
The Great American Outdoors Act is making improvements that benefit all. Over 50% of Legacy Restoration Fund projects include Americans with Disabilities Act improvements. For example, a Maintenance Action Team at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge replaced major components of the Tundra Swan and Tubby Cove Boardwalks to increase safety and make the boardwalks fully wheelchair accessible for visitors. Repairs will allow visitors to safely hike and to use accessible viewing blinds to watch wildlife.
The repairs also provide increased access to green spaces and outdoor recreation on public lands for underserved communities, urban families, leading to potential improvements in overall health.