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One Year Later, Great American Outdoors Act Put Into Action

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Friday, August 6, 2021   

PIERRE, S.D. -- Conservation groups and federal officials are cheering the first anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act, signed into law last summer.

Supporters of the bipartisan effort say repairs and maintenance to national parks now are moving forward. Among other things, the bill sets aside $6 billion over five years for national park repairs, along with permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Shannon Estenoz, assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks at the Department of the Interior, said on the repair side, there is a host of improvements getting under way.

"Improving visitor amenities, but also improving and modernizing water and wastewater infrastructure and transportation infrastructure, like roads bridges and tunnels," Estenoz outlined.

In the first fiscal year of the plan, the law is funding nearly 150 projects. That includes repairing a scenic road at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

As for South Dakota, the state stands to benefit from stable funding in the conservation fund, meant to protect lands at places such as Black Hills National Forest.

A few years ago, it was estimated National Park Service sites in South Dakota also were sitting on more than $72 million in deferred maintenance.

Meanwhile, Estenoz pointed out the work coincides with strong attendance numbers at sites around the U.S., with people still weary from the pandemic.

"These investments are being made under the Act at a time when people really are clamoring for more access to the outdoors," Estenoz noted.

Nearly 40 projects have been earmarked funds for the second fiscal year under the plan. South Dakota isn't part of that list, but Estenoz emphasized they are still sorting out project needs for the final three years of the repair and maintenance aspect of the law.


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