This week, Jay Leutze, government relations director for the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy talks with The Kicker host Stephanie Carson about The Great American Outdoors Act, approved by the U.S. Senate on June 17, which could have a great impact on public lands in North Carolina.

The GAOA would provide a surge of funds to public agencies to purchase land from trusts and other sellers with conservation and access value for the public throughout the country.

It could also provide funding for better maintenance of existing public lands.

If passed by the House of Representatives, it will fully fund the annual $900 million Land and Water Conservation Fund and provide $9.5 billion over five years to undertake the massive pile of deferred maintenance on federal public land units.

Public lands in North Carolina
The Cape Lookout National Seashore is one of several North Carolina public lands that could be extended thanks to a potential influx of federal funding. Jack Igelman / Carolina Public Press

How will this impact public lands in North Carolina?

Established by Congress more than five decades ago, the LWCF invests funds from offshore oil and gas drilling royalties. Each year $900 million is deposited in the LWCF account in the federal treasury, though not all of the funds are appropriated for conservation or recreation projects by Congress and can be used for unrelated budget items.

The funds can be allocated to three general purposes: federal land acquisitions; state-level matching grants for outdoor recreation projects, such as ball fields, greenways or swimming pools; and a catchall category referred to as “other federal purposes.”

A second component of the GAOA provides funds to cover deferred maintenance costs on public land units. For example, the National Park Service has a maintenance backlog that includes $11.9 billion worth of projects such as the restoration of historic buildings, roads and park infrastructure.

You can read our latest reporting on this story at this link.

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Stephanie Carson is the former news and community partnerships manager at Carolina Public Press.

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