NM lawmakers praise signing of Outdoors Act

By:  Scott Turner

Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation praised President Donald Trump’s signing of the Great American Outdoors Act as a victory for conservation and a help for an economy crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The president signed the legislation Tuesday. It will provide $1.9 billion a year for five years to help clear a maintenance backlog at national parks, monuments, refuges and other federal lands. It will also permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million a year.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is already our nation’s most successful conservation program, but full and permanent funding will finally allow us to realize its promise – the promise envisioned by my father Stewart Udall (former congressman and Department of the Interior secretary), when he helped create the LWCF decades ago,” U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said in a news release. “Meanwhile, the substantial down-payment this bill makes to repair and clean up our national parks and public lands will help safeguard these precious places for decades to come, while providing a badly-needed jolt for our economy. This law is a model for how conservation and economic recovery can go hand in hand.”

Fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland said the signing of the bill ensures that “the program (LWCF) that helps us build parks, rodeo grounds and recreation centers will have a guaranteed future and jobs in the restoration economy will be coming home to our state.”

The Continental Divide Trail Coalition and the cities of Farmington and Raton are among communities hoping to receive funding from the LWCF to help with trail projects.

“All of this work on our outdoor places is especially important during this time of economic downturn,” U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said. “The Great American Outdoors Act will put thousands of Americans back to work, reignite local economies, create new jobs, help small businesses get back on their feet, and provide urgently needed stimulus to New Mexico’s outdoor recreation industry, one of the fastest growing parts of our economy before the onset of the pandemic.”

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is planning to use funding from the act to replace the three-mile trail inside the caverns, a project that could total more than $40 million. White Sands National Park is planning to renovate its visitor center and restrooms, which date to the 1930s.