Senate Democrats

The Environmental Provisions Included in the America’s Great Outdoors Act

In the coming days, the Senate may consider the America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010. This legislation is the product of the bipartisan work of four Senate committees (Commerce, Environment and Public Works, Indian Affairs, and Energy and Natural Resources) that have favorably reported a variety of bipartisan ocean, wildlife, tribal, and natural resource bills to the Senate floor throughout the 111th Congress.

Among other important provisions, the legislation designates new wilderness areas in three states, adds 4,600 miles to the national trail system, preserves important Revolutionary and Civil Wars sites, increases resources for protecting the worlds remaining marine turtles and great cats, restores critical bodies of water like Lake Tahoe, the Columbia River and the Long Island Sound, slows the decline in the world’s rapidly dwindling shark populations, and permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Wilderness

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 would designate over 325,000 acres of wilderness throughout Washington, Oregon and New Mexico.  In combination with the Omnibus Public Land Management Act that was signed into law in 2009, the approval of America’s Great Outdoors Act would bring the total amount of wilderness designated in the 111th Congress to approximately 2.5 million acres.

Rivers

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 would add more than 90 miles to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.  In combination with the Omnibus Public Land Management Act that was signed into law in 2009, the approval of the America’s Great Outdoors Act would bring the length of wild and scenic rivers designated in the 111th Congress to approximately 1,100 miles.   TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act would also help restore and reduce pollution in the major rivers such as the Connecticut and Columbia Rivers and their associated watersheds.

National Conservation Areas

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 would create approximately 400,000 acres of new National Conservation Areas in New Mexico.  In combination with the Omnibus Public Land Management Act that was signed into law in 2009, the approval of the America’s Great Outdoors Act would bring the total amount of national conservation areas designated in the 111th Congress to approximately 725,000 acres.  National Conservation Areas provide important protections for special natural, cultural, and scenic resource values while improving access and recreational opportunities in those areas.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is the principal funding source used by the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to acquire lands for outdoor recreation. Over the history of the program, these LWCF funds have helped to improve key recreation and conservation sites in almost every National Forest and Wildlife Refuge east of the Rockies.  The America’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010would end the years of inadequate funding for the LWCF by making its authorization permanent.

National Parks System

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 would designate the Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico as a unit of the National Park System and reauthorize the National Park System Advisory Board through fiscal year 2020 and make a variety of changes to the procedures of the National Park Service.

National Monuments

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 would establish two new National Monuments in Texas and Colorado.  The bill would also expand two existing National Monuments in California and Oregon.  In combination with the Omnibus Public Land Management Act that was signed into law in 2009, the approval of theAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act would bring the total number of National Monuments designated in the 111th Congress to three.  National Monument designations protect areas with important natural, cultural, and historical values.

Trails

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 would increase the size of the North Country National Scenic Trail in Minnesota by 4,600 miles.  In combination with the Omnibus Public Land Management Act that was signed into law in 2009, the approval of the America’s Great Outdoors Act would bring the total amount of trails designated in the 111th Congress to approximately 7,500 miles.

Heritage Areas

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 would create two new National Heritage Areas in Alabama and Pennsylvania.  The legislation would also expand the boundaries of an existing National Heritage Area in Louisiana.

Forests

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 would reduce the damage and threats posed to forests by bark beetles and other insects and diseases in the West.  These provisions are important because since 1990, bark beetles have killed millions of trees across millions of acres of forest from Alaska to Colorado to southern California.

Protecting Sacred Battlefields, Cold War Sites, and Honoring African American Soldiers from the Revolutionary War

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 would expand the boundaries of the Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia and the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.  The legislation would also improve the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota by transferring 25 acres of land from the U.S. Forest Service to the National Parks Service in order to build a visitor center and administrative facility on-site.

In addition, this legislation would authorize the National Mall Liberty Fund D.C., a non-profit organization based in the District of Columbia, to construct a memorial on Federal land in the District of Columbia to honor the 5,000 slaves and free black persons who served as soldiers or provided civilian assistance during the American Revolution.

Marine Sanctuaries

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 would expand the boundaries of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Michigan by 4,000 square nautical miles, the Gulf of the Farallones Sanctuary by 1,521 square nautical miles, and the Cordell Bank Sanctuary by 354 square nautical miles.  National Marine Sanctuary waters provide a secure habitat for sensitive species, protect historically significant shipwrecks and artifacts, serve as natural classrooms to promote understanding and stewardship of our oceans, and offer world-class opportunities for sport fishing and diving.

Lakes, Bays, Estuaries, and Sounds

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 would take important steps to help protect the following bodies of water:

  • San Francisco Bay;
  • Chesapeake Bay;
  • Great Lakes;
  • Lake Tahoe;
  • Puget Sound; and
  • Long Island Sound.

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 wouldalso reauthorize the National Estuary Program which helps restore coastal water quality and watersheds.

Oceans

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 will help to improve our nation’s understanding of the dangers posed by harmful algal blooms and ocean hypoxia by reauthorizing and amending the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act.

The legislation would also help to protect coral reefs by extending protections to reefs in all U.S. waters, prohibiting certain actions that destroy or damage or coral reefs, and clarify that the shark finning prohibitions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act apply not only to fishing vessels, but also to non-fishing vessels.

Fishing

TheAmerica’s Great Outdoors Act of 2010 would also authorize the funding of projects to conserve fish habitats and expand Federal support and resources for the protection and restoration of the healthiest remaining salmon strongholds in North America.  The legislation would also establish uniform enforcement policies and procedures among federal statutes that govern the regulation of commercial fishing.

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