Trump Signs Law to Fund Public Land Maintenance with Offshore Oil and Gas Royalties

August 5, 2020

A Gulf of Mexico platform - Image  by donvictori0/AdobeStock
A Gulf of Mexico platform - Image by donvictori0/AdobeStock

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law a rare bipartisan bill that will use royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling operations to fund long-overdue maintenance of public lands, national parks, and Native American schools.

Trump said more than 5,500 miles of road, 17,000 miles of trails and 24,000 buildings were in critical need of repair.

"Today we're making the most significant investment in our parks since the administration of the legendary conservationist President Theodore Roosevelt," Trump said during a signing ceremony at the White House.

The Great American Outdoors Act will permanently direct $900 million a year to a long-standing federal program aimed at acquiring and protecting public lands.

Work on the unusual bipartisan effort was led by Republican Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana, who are both up for re-election this year and spoke at the event, and Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

The law will insulate the Land and Water Conservation Fund from the congressional appropriations process, ensuring steady funding at double the level seen in recent years by tapping royalties paid by offshore oil and gas drilling operations.

The LWCF was created in 1964, but Congress in most years has diverted funding for it to other uses. It received $495 million in funding last year.

Trump said the law would provide $10 billion to address deferred maintenance needs at national parks and forests, without "bludgeoning our workers and crushing our businesses."

He took aim at China, Russia, India, and other countries that he said were continuing to pollute the environment instead of adopting costly protective measures. "We're working with other countries to try and get them to up their game," he said.

Vice President Mike Pence said the measure would create more than 110,000 new infrastructure jobs across the country. 

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Tom Brown)

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