Over the summer, the Great American Outdoors Act became one of the few laws in recent memory to pass with strong bipartisan support. It permanently funded the Land and Water Conservation Fund, provided new money for much-needed maintenance and repairs on public lands, and could help put tens of thousands of people back to work fixing up our parks. There’s just one little problem: The Trump administration has so far refused to generate a simple list of projects that would direct the law’s resources and kick off the work.
The act set a deadline of November 2 for the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service (under the U.S. Department of Agriculture) to send two separate lists to Congress: The first would include deferred maintenance projects to be completed on public lands, and the second would name a set of outdoor recreation projects and proposed land purchases that would enhance national parks and public spaces.
The administration has only submitted the first of the two lists, arguing—rather bizarrely—that the second list is the president’s responsibility through the Office of Management and Budget. No one else appears to read the law this way. More importantly, the Trump administration could have sorted this out long before it blew the deadline. Members of Congress have chided the administration for its failure, which, they say, has real consequences.
“Every day that passes runs a risk that a local stakeholder, a private landowner, or another partner may not be able to keep their lands, matching funds, or other resources available for a project,” Montana senator Jon Tester wrote in a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
While the administration dithers, the “biggest land conservation legislation in a generation” remains words on a piece of paper rather than a landmark action to restore public lands.