The Great American Outdoors Act passed by Congress that President Trump has pledged to sign is slated to benefit national parks in the region and create jobs statewide.
Approved by the Senate in June and the House of Representatives last week, the act would pump about $3 billion into conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks. In Virginia, it’s estimated that it will create or help support more than 10,000 jobs.
The funds would address a backlog of deferred maintenance costs at National Park Service sites, but allocations haven’t been determined. Virginia’s national parks have more than $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance. National parks in the state’s 10th Congressional District, which stretches from Frederick County east through Loudoun and into McLean, have $337,178,843 in deferred maintenance, including $823,242 at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park in Middletown. Accounting for most of the deferred maintenance in the 10th District are nearly $294 million for the George Washington Memorial Parkway, $34.2 million for Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts and $8.2 million for Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.-10th), who helped pass the bill in the House, touted it as one of the most significant investments in environmental conservation in a generation. She said in a news release that it will help address longstanding infrastructure needs such as roads, bridges and trails.
The bill fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million annually and creates the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which will provide funding to the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education for maintenance expenses over the next five years. The funding is tied to royalties derived from energy extraction on public lands and waters.
The legislation drew praise from several conservation organizations, including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which has a presence in Loudoun.
Sandra Marra, president and CEO of the ATC, said the legislation will enhance the safety and accessibility of public lands like the Appalachian Trail and “ensure the legacy of outdoor spaces and experiences passes on to the next generation.”