If you are among the 81% of Alaskans who say they participate in outdoor recreation, consider thanking Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan for their votes in support of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA). GAOA aims to catch up on deferred maintenance at national parks, forests, refuges and Bureau of Land Management recreation units. Public lands launch careers and power the economies of gateway communities. In 2019, national parks in Alaska employed nearly 20,000 people and attracted 3.2 million visitors, who spent an estimated $1.5 billion in local gateway regions. Plus, every $1 million of funding for forest service conservation and restoration projects generates 19 jobs.
GAOA would also guarantee full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. In Anchorage, LWCF grants helped purchase local favorites like Campbell Creek Greenbelt, Westchester Lagoon and built trails, sports fields and increased ADA accessibility at neighborhood playgrounds. Every $1 million of LWCF funds creates 17-30 jobs and returns $4 million in economic value.
Passage of GAOA is among the recommendations in the Alaska Outdoor Alliance COVID-19 Jobs Stimulus Package, which garnered widespread support across the state. Beyond the core outdoor recreation business and non-profit sector, notable Anchorage supporters of the proposal included the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, Anchorage Downtown Partnership, the Alaska Chapter of the American Society for Landscape Architects, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, Assemblymen Forrest Dunbar and John Weddleton. State Sens. Mia Costello and Elvi Gray-Jackson, plus Reps. Matt Claman, Andy Josephson, Geran Tarr and Chris Tuck joined with other legislators to voice their support in a letter to Congress.
GAOA next advances to the House, where we hope Congressman Don Young will join the chorus of bipartisan support for a measure that funds outdoor infrastructure improvements that will get Alaskans back to work on projects that will delight residents and visitors for generations to come.
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