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Great American Outdoors Act - Good or Bad?

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8/5/2020 11:23 AM

Signed into law yesterday, The Great American Outdoors Act puts millions of dollars into trail building and maintenance. Exciting. The less-than-exciting part is that money for trail building/maintenance projects will come from permits used to extract oil and gas on federal lands.

Will trails be built with "blood money" in the long run?

Great American Outdoors Act

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8/5/2020 11:35 AM

Can you give a bit more clarity on how the funding works?

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8/5/2020 11:40 AM
Edited Date/Time: 8/5/2020 12:17 PM

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8/5/2020 12:04 PM
Edited Date/Time: 8/5/2020 12:15 PM

Looks like a huge priority to be put on deferred maintenance projects (there's loads of those), and not specifically outlining "new trails".

Regardless, I see it as blood money for natural resource extraction on our public lands. I'd gladly trade some maintenance for the restoration or Bears Ears, Grand Escalante , ANWAR, etc.

Also, looks like 15% of total goes to Forest Service and only 5% goes to BLM. Hardly a windfall for new trail projects. I wonder why organizations like People for Bikes and IMBA are so gung-ho on it. There's only mention of "paved and unpaved roads" in the language of the bill, not trails.

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8/5/2020 12:21 PM
Edited Date/Time: 8/5/2020 12:21 PM

This bill establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to support deferred maintenance projects on federal lands.

For FY2021-FY2025, there shall be deposited into the fund an amount equal to 50% of energy development revenues credited, covered, or deposited as miscellaneous receipts from oil, gas, coal, or alternative or renewable energy development on federal lands and waters. Deposited amounts must not exceed $1.9 billion for any fiscal year.

The fund must be used for priority deferred maintenance projects in specified systems that are administered by

the National Park Service,
the Forest Service,
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
the Bureau of Land Management, and
the Bureau of Indian Education.
The Government Accountability Office must report on the effect of the fund in reducing the backlog of priority deferred maintenance projects for the specified agencies.

Additionally, the bill makes funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanent. The President shall annually report to Congress specified details regarding the allocation of funds to the LWCF. Congress may provide for alternate allocations using specified procedures.

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1957

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8/5/2020 12:26 PM

How I read that is that renewable energy could fund this as well. A scenario I could see play out is that we have an administration that prioritizes renewable energy creation and any revenues from that go to trails. In that scenario I see that as a major win win.

In the opposite end, we could have a significant amount of other energy sources created that harm the environment, and we have a lose - win situation.

So I think regardless right now it is a good thing there is funding. Although I would love to see newer trails created than paving existing trails out there.

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8/5/2020 12:44 PM
Edited Date/Time: 8/5/2020 12:45 PM

Natural resource extraction allows for your to type on your keyboard (made out of petroleum), view this website on your monitor (make out of petroleum), which was delivered to your house or store in a truck that runs on petroleum (made out of petroleum) all powered by mostly coal electricity (carried over wires made out of petroleum), all to talk about bikes (made out of petroleum).

Obviously there needs to be a balance, but vilifying resource extraction is stupid, harmful, and hypocritical. Few things in life are black and white.

And before the "renewable energy crowd" downvotes me, we are a decade away from any solar or wind power infrastructure reliable enough for manufacturing use, and decades away from wind/solar being a viable industry independent of fossil fuels for its own manufacturing and supply chain.

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8/5/2020 1:02 PM

hamncheez2003 wrote:

Natural resource extraction allows for your to type on your keyboard (made out of petroleum), view this website on your monitor (make out of petroleum), which was delivered to your house or store in a truck that runs on petroleum (made out of petroleum) all powered by mostly coal electricity (carried over wires made out of petroleum), all to talk about bikes (made out of petroleum).

Obviously there needs to be a balance, but vilifying resource extraction is stupid, harmful, and hypocritical. Few things in life are black and white.

And before the "renewable energy crowd" downvotes me, we are a decade away from any solar or wind power infrastructure reliable enough for manufacturing use, and decades away from wind/solar being a viable industry independent of fossil fuels for its own manufacturing and supply chain.

resource extraction isn't the issue. where the resource extraction is happening is (public lands).

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8/5/2020 1:59 PM

Our land management agencies are broke from a history of defunding and are unable to address deferred maintenance due to costs or understaffing. This policy, even if It does not directly improve trails, will alleviate the critical maintenance funding need, and hopefully free up resources that might now be directed to trails improvement/development.

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8/5/2020 2:13 PM

Sure looks like blood money to me. Surely there are better ways to pay for trail maintenance and building, if the US even gave a damn about the environment and preservation.

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8/5/2020 2:29 PM

hamncheez2003 wrote:

Natural resource extraction allows for your to type on your keyboard (made out of petroleum), view this website on your monitor (make out of petroleum), which was delivered to your house or store in a truck that runs on petroleum (made out of petroleum) all powered by mostly coal electricity (carried over wires made out of petroleum), all to talk about bikes (made out of petroleum).

Obviously there needs to be a balance, but vilifying resource extraction is stupid, harmful, and hypocritical. Few things in life are black and white.

And before the "renewable energy crowd" downvotes me, we are a decade away from any solar or wind power infrastructure reliable enough for manufacturing use, and decades away from wind/solar being a viable industry independent of fossil fuels for its own manufacturing and supply chain.

sspomer wrote:

resource extraction isn't the issue. where the resource extraction is happening is (public lands).

Not in MY backyard, in other words.

I'm a proponent of extracting our own resources from our own lands whenever possible. Clearly, there needs to be a balance between resources and national parks/wilderness, but it is patently unfair for the USA to be the world's largest consumer of goods, fuels, food and resources, yet we source it from all over the world. That scenario also leaves us vulnerable to supply chain interruption, sabotage, and price instability.

Despite my opinion, I fully understand and share the concerns many people have about big oil spoiling nature for profit, especially given the current administration's inclination.

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8/5/2020 2:48 PM

MatadorCE wrote:

Sure looks like blood money to me. Surely there are better ways to pay for trail maintenance and building, if the US even gave a damn about the environment and preservation.

There is, but many won't like it any better than the newly passed law. A tax on equipment purchases for mountain biking, hiking, camping, and horseback riding could provide funding directly from those who use the trail systems. Hunters and anglers are already paying a tax to fund conservation efforts. Plus there could be a trail use permit for trail users similar to a hunting or fishing license to further fund trail projects.

Another thing to consider, resource extraction is already happening on public lands, at least now those companies have to help improve those lands instead of just using them.

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8/5/2020 2:50 PM

Verbatim from the bill:

"...50 percent of all energy development revenues due and payable to the United States from oil, gas, coal, or alternative or renewable energy development on Federal land and water credited, covered, or deposited as miscellaneous receipts under Federal law in the preceding fiscal year."

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8/5/2020 3:07 PM

The real problem is how much land is public land. "Public" really means government owned. historically, Government has not been a good steward of the environment.

Since nearly all land in the West is Federally owned, how else do we use our natural resources? In Utah over 64% of the whole state is owned by the Federal Government. In Nevada its over 80%. If over half of the land containing natural resources is publicly owned, what should we do? Just ignore it? The revolution in energy prices at the turn of the last century was one of the primary drivers of reducing poverty and creating a middle class. Cheap oil meant people, who worked 16 hour days in agriculture or factories, could afford to read in the evening for the first time in history. Their children actually had a hope of literacy.

There is no way to have a balance of preservation, conversation, and some resource extraction without it happening on public land. The original post called this "blood money".

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