Sen. Lamar Alexander R-Tenn., hands a walking stick to Donald Trump Tuesday during a signing ceremony for The Great American Outdoors Act at the White House in Washington, D.C. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 4 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law on Tuesday, a major bipartisan conservation effort that will secure lands and pay for a backlog of maintenance at National Parks.
Trump signed the measure flanked by the bill's supporters during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
"There hasn't been anything like this since Teddy Roosevelt, I suspect," he said of the legislation, which won 73-25 approval in the Senate in June and 310-107 passage in the House last month.
The law allocates $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund -- nearly double its funding for fiscal 2020 -- and guarantees full annual funding for the first time since its creation in 1964. The fund is used for federal acquisition of land and waters and provides state grants for outdoor recreational facilities.
It also establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to carry out long-deferred maintenance projects on lands administered by the National Park Service, the Forest Service and other branches of the Interior Department. Some $9.5 billion is earmarked for the effort over a five-year period.
Both measures are funded by revenues from oil and gas production.
"We're preserving our land. We're making our land better and cleaner and safer," Trump said.
Trump tweeted support for the bill after it passed the Senate, praising two Republican senators for their work on the measure, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana, each of whom face re-election contests in November.
"The GAOA will protect our country's natural treasures and promote recreation and conservation for generations -- thanks to the strong leadership of [Daines] and [Gardner]," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell tweeted after Trump signed the bill.
The president switched to supporting more funding for the conservation fund in March after previously calling for it to cut by as much as 97%.
"Congress has finally fulfilled the 55-year-old promise of the Land and Water Conservation Fund -- the nation's most effective program for strengthening communities through conservation and improved access to outdoor recreation," Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, said in a statement.
"This incredible victory ... reminds us that conservation of our shared outdoor spaces is something we can all come together on."
Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks Conservation Association, said the law will address parks' "crumbling roads, decaying buildings and outdated water systems."
"This bill is a conservationist's dream," she said in a statement.
"The coronavirus outbreak has shown just how much people value their parks, trails, forests and waters, and how critical these places are to our health and well being."