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by Ad Crable, BayJournal.com

President Donald Trump on Tuesday, Aug. 4, signed into law the Great American Outdoors Act.

Both houses of Congress overwhelmingly passed the legislation in July, which guarantees annual funding of $900 million per year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Though the fund has existed since 1965, much of the money going into it each year has been shifted into other federal budgets. The intended use of the fund is to acquire and maintain local and national parks, trails, historic sites and other outdoor spaces for public recreation.

One priority use for the money is to spend $9.5 billion over five years to take on an estimated $21 billion backlog in repairs and maintenance that have hampered national parks, forests and wildlife refuges, as well as vast Western lands maintained by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

Funds for the conservation work will come from offshore oil and gas operations leases, not tax dollars.

Since 1965, almost every county in the Chesapeake Bay drainage states has received matching grant money from the fund for local parks, trails and other open space uses.

Joel Dunn, president and CEO of the nonprofit Chesapeake Conservancy, called it a historic moment for conservation in the Bay region and across the nation. ” A fully and permanently funded Land and Water Conservation Fund means that conservation funding is effectively doubled, in perpetuity, for our national parks and public lands as well as our state parks,” he said.

Trump called the legislation a “very big deal from an environmental standpoint” and “the most significant contribution to our parks” since those of President Theodore Roosevelt. “We are proving that we can protect our treasured environment without bludgeoning our workers and crushing our businesses,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the BayJournal.com on August 5, 2020, and is republished with permission.