Congress passes sprawling plan to boost conservation, parks

In this June 9, 2020, file photo, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., speaks to reporters following the weekly Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington. A bipartisan bill that would spend nearly $3 billion on conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands is on its way to the president’s desk after winning final legislative approval. Supporters say the measure, known as the Great American Outdoors Act, would be the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly 50 years.

A bipartisan bill that would spend nearly $3 billion on conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands is on its way to the president’s desk after winning final legislative approval.

Supporters say the measure, known as the Great American Outdoors Act, would be the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century.

The House approved the bill 310-107 Wednesday, weeks after it won overwhelming approval in the Senate. The bill now goes to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, urged passage of the bill in a tweet. The younger Trump, a senior adviser to her father, is expected to celebrate the bill’s passage at events in Colorado this week with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Sen. Cory Gardner, one of the bill’s sponsors.

The bill would spend about $900 million a year — double current spending — on the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund, and another $1.9 billion per year on improvements at national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and rangelands.

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, called the bill “one of the biggest wins for conservation in decades.’’

“We have a generational opportunity to ensure America’s crown jewels are protected,’’ he said, adding that the bill would ensure all tools available are used to help the nation respond to the climate crisis and protect landscapes, clean water and clean air.

At a time of intense partisan disagreements, “it is perhaps more necessary that ever to demonstrate we can still bridge the divide … and work together to find common ground,’’ said Grijalva, a Democrat. “This bill goes beyond politics. It’s about ensuring that we pass along a legacy of public lands.’’

Supporters say the bill will create at least 100,000 jobs, while restoring national parks and repairing trails and forest systems.

“At a time when our country needs to create jobs and rebuild local economies while also protecting nature and places where everyone can recreate outdoors, the Great American Outdoors Act answers the call on all fronts,” said Jennifer Morris, CEO of The Nature Conservancy, an advocacy group.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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