Cove Point Lighthouse. Photo by Rob Powell.

Legislative Victory: Sweeping Conservation & Preservation Legislation to Become Law

07/23/2020
By Elly Colmers Cowan

On the evening of July 22, 2020, the House of Representatives approved one of the most significant pieces of conservation legislation in a generation, the Great American Outdoors Act, with broad bipartisan support. Having passed the Senate in June, the legislation is on its way to the President’s desk, who specifically requested the bill for his signature.

Preservation Maryland has been hard at work with our conservation colleagues advocating at the federal level for this landmark legislation. The Great American Outdoors Act is an environmental and preservation victory.

Screenshot of House vote on the Great American Outdoors Act, July 22, 2020.

The legislation creates the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which will be funded by energy leases similar to the Historic Preservation Fund, with up to $9.5 billion in dedicated funding over five years for much-needed repairs of the National Park Service and other federal agencies. According to a 2018 National Parks Service report that found the national backlog to be $11.9 billion, Maryland sites alone need nearly $245 million to address deferred maintenance needs, the majority of which include historic structures throughout the parks. The funding also represents a huge investment in jobs, as there will be a need for skilled preservation tradespeople to do the necessary work. Preservation Maryland intends to be involved in this aspect of the legislation through our Campaign for Historic Trades, a partnership with the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Training Center, based in Frederick, MD.

The Great American Outdoors Act will also fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has been used to support conservation and recreation projects in National Parks as well as local ball fields. Since its inception in 1964, the LWCF has provided more than $231 million in grant funding to projects in Maryland, with more than $85 million going to state and local parks. Furthermore, the LWCF supports historic preservation efforts by funding the acquisition of historic sites and land through the National Park Service and the American Battlefield Protection Program.

Speaking on the House floor before the vote, Maryland’s Steny Hoyer spoke to the value of the program, saying,

“In my home state of Maryland, we have used the fund to protect some of our most historic sites, protecting nature so that every American might have the same opportunity to enjoy the sanctity of nature or connect with our history. I was proud to have worked to protect the viewshed of George Washington’s Mt. Vernon site permanently through the creation of Piscataway Park on Maryland’s side of the river. We also used the fund to protect the Patuxent Research Refuge, established to support wildlife research; Douglas Point in Nanjemoy; and countless sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. In all, Maryland has received over $230 million dollars from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to preserve our state’s most treasured landscapes and historic places.”

On behalf of all Marylanders who appreciate and enjoy our state’s natural and cultural assets, Preservation Maryland extends sincere thanks to Congressman Hoyer and the members of the Maryland Delegation who voted in favor of this historic legislation.

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Elly Colmers Cowan · Director of Advocacy

Elly Cowan is here to get you involved in historic preservation, smart growth, and community development by becoming an advocate with us.

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