A view of Skyline Forest from Tumalo Reservoir. Photo: Jim Yuskavitch.

Land Trust Celebrates the Signing of Great American Outdoors Act

Aug 05, 2020 by Jana Hemphill
The Land Trust thanks Oregon's Congressional delegation for their support of the Great American Outdoors Act and permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

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By Brad Chalfant

More accustomed to bad news than good coming from Washington D.C., this week saw a huge victory. On August 4th, the President signed the Great American Outdoors Act. Though most of the headlines celebrated $9.5 billion in long overdue funding to begin addressing deferred maintenance at our National Parks and Monuments, I’d argue those headlines overlooked the bill’s most important achievement—full and permanent funding of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.  

Enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Johnson in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) committed $900 million dollars per year of the royalties collected from offshore oil and gas leases to the acquisition of new public lands. The idea was that if the American people were going to sell off our public resources, a portion of those proceeds should go back into acquiring and protecting important natural resources for future generations. Unfortunately, Congress has had a tendency to spend those funds elsewhere and has only appropriated the full amount to land conservation twice in the past 35 years.  

Among the most important programs within the LWCF is the Forest Legacy Program, an initiative that is key to the permanent protection and conservation of Central Oregon’s 33,000-acre Skyline Forest, located west of Bend. Conserving a property as large and important as Skyline Forest will never be cheap or easy, but knowing that the Forest Legacy Program is fully funded is a critical step to ensuring we can protect Central Oregon’s iconic green foothills leading up to the Cascade mountains.  

The Deschutes Land Trust and our partners at the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts and Land Trust Alliance worked hard to build bi-partisan support and we are pleased to acknowledge the role of Oregon’s Congressional delegation. While Oregon’s entire delegation voted in favor of the Great American Outdoors Act, we owe special acknowledgment and thanks for the leadership of Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Jeff Merkley. Likewise, we’re grateful to Representative Greg Walden for making this a bi-partisan, all Oregon effort. Well done, all!

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