On Tuesday this week, President Trump signed into law the Great American Outdoors Act, which passed through Congress with bipartisan support. The legislation will provide significant funding for repairing and maintaining National Park facilities across the country, as well as permanently supporting a key source of funding for land and water conservation.
Over the next five years, the National Park Service and other federal land management agencies will receive $9.5 billion to begin catching up on critical repairs to infrastructure.
This could include some funding for the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers, which are managed by the National Park Service.
For decades, the Park Service has not had the money to do all the maintenance it should on the buildings, roads, docks, and many other kinds of facilities. This has left some parks in disrepair and diminished visitor experiences.
On the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, there is about $4.3 million in deferred maintenance. That means rough roads and buildings in disrepair, and more.
Park superintendent Julie Galonska says it’s too early to say which parks and which projects will receive the federal funding.
“In general, the legislation will address infrastructure needs in parks to enable their preservation, accessibility, and enjoyment for people today and in the future,” Galonska says. “There will be a focus on safe, accessible and reliable services, which will enhance park experiences for visitors.”
The administration has 90 days to submit a list of priority projects to Congress for approval. Subsequently, presidents will be expected to submit such a proposal with their annual budget requests.
Another key part of the legislation is the permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses government revenue from offshore oil drilling to pay for land acquisition and protection.
Grants from the LWCF have funded projects in every county in America, including many along the St. Croix River. But the fund has been on-again, off-again as Congress has sometimes failed to reauthorize it. That will no longer by a worry.
See below for information about how elected officials in Minnesota and Wisconsin voted on the legislation.
How did your representative vote?
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D)
- Sen. Tina Smith (D)
- Rep. Angie Craig (D)
- Rep. Dean Phillips (D)
- Rep. Betty McCollum (D)*
- Rep. Ilhan Omar (D)
- Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D)
- Rep. Pete Stauber (R)*
- Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R)
- Rep. Tom Emmer (R)*
- Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D)
- Rep. Mark Pocan (D)
- Rep. Ron Kind (D)
- Rep. Gwen Moore (D)
- Rep. Mike Gallagher (R)
- Sen. Ron Johnson (R)
- Rep. Bryan Steil (R)
- Rep. Glenn Grothman (R)
- Rep. Tom Tiffany (R)*
Did not vote:
- Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R)
* District includes the St. Croix River