Anniversary of Great American Outdoors Act prompts fee-free day on public lands this week

An undated file photo from 2017 shows hiker descending the Angels Landing route with near 1,000-foot drops on both side, Zion National Park, Utah | Photo by Caitlin Ceci/Zion National Park, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — On Wednesday, designated as “Great American Outdoors Day,” the Department of the Interior will celebrate the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act. The law, which passed with strong bipartisan support, makes unprecedented investments in national parks, public lands and American Indian schools.

Hiking in Snow Canyon State Park, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Red Mountain Resort, St. George News

To support the Department’s commitment to ensuring equitable access to public lands, entrance fees will be waived on Wednesday at all fee-collecting public lands managed by the Department, according to a press release issued by the Department. Other fees, such as overnight camping, cabin rentals, group day use and use of special areas, remain in effect.

“Creating new jobs and stimulating our economy is a top priority of the Biden-Harris administration. Through the Great American Outdoors Act, we are investing in the American people, and in the future of our public lands and sacred spaces,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in the news release. “I invite all Americans to experience the beauty and bounty of our nation’s public lands – not just on August 4 but every day of the year.”

The Great American Outdoors Act helps support the goals of President Joe Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative to back locally led efforts to conserve, restore and protect lands and waters across the nation to help address the climate and biodiversity crises, increase equitable access to the great outdoors and strengthen the economy, the release states.

This summer is especially busy on many public lands. While most of the 423 national parks are open, visitors may find limited services in and around national parks. Check individual park websites or download the NPS App for specific details about their operations. Learn more about alternatives to popular parks on Interior’s blog. Public lands enthusiasts are encouraged to similarly plan their visits with the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo by Yobro10/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

The Act provides full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million per year. The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established by Congress in 1964 to fulfill a bipartisan commitment to safeguard the nation’s natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans.

The Act also established the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to provide needed maintenance at critical facilities on public lands and Indian schools. Restoration-funded projects will help reduce Interior’s deferred maintenance backlog of over $22 billion and improve recreation facilities, dams, water and utility infrastructure, schools and other historic structures. Other projects aim to increase public access by restoring and repairing roads, trails, bridges and parking areas.

For Fiscal Year 2022, Great American Outdoors Act-funded projects for Interior are expected to support more than 17,000 jobs and generate $1.8 billion in local communities. Between planned Fiscal Year 2021 and proposed Fiscal Year 2022 funding, Interior has Legacy Restoration Fund deferred maintenance projects in all 50 states and multiple U.S. territories.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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