Yes, public lands have gotten a battering over the last few years. It’s been hard to keep up with the attempts to defund, dismiss public input, and give industry a perpetual pass to the front of the line.
Despite this, we are also making progress on a few really important fronts. Most of this is because outdoor enthusiasts, including you, were so vocal these last two years. Lawmakers know that when the outdoor community cares about something, they are going to hear about it.
Earlier this year, we succeeded at getting a wildfire funding fix, which addressed money being siphoned from the Forest Service every year to fight wildfires. Congress also passed a program (the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act) which helps address checkerboard land ownership to improve access and management of public lands.
And, although the Land and Water Conservation Fund expired, we are optimistic that it could be reauthorized before the end of the year. With it, we could also see Congress pass a bill to provide funding for the maintenance backlog at National Parks, a key fix for some of our most popular public lands. Both bills currently have strong bipartisan support. The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act has also made speedy (well, speedy for D.C.!) progress through Congress and will ensure more streamlined permitting, special protections for outdoor recreation gems, and more focus on recreation from our land management agencies.
All of these programs go a long way to improving how our public lands are cared for. Public land management definitely isn’t perfect, and Americans – especially locals who live nearest to a lot of our public lands – have some very real concerns about how to manage these places better.
Outdoor Alliance has worked to address not just immediate threats to public lands, but also provide long-term solutions that provide balanced, fair, sustainable land management. This includes making sure that public lands are affordable and accessible for locals and visitors – and though our focus is on human-powered recreation, we believe there’s enough space on public land for all of us, from ATV enthusiasts to horseback riders to mountain bikers to birders.
We want to ensure that the American people have fair and accessible outlets to share their perspectives with the Forest Service, BLM, and Park Service. And we advocate for strong management plans and adequate funding for public lands. Without funding, none of what we all want for public lands is possible. Public voices have made a huge difference over the past two years, and they are going to be even more important in making this vision of well-balanced, well-funding, publicly-owned, and sustainably managed public lands a reality.