Western New York parks stand to benefit from dedicated federal funding
Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, announced the House of Representatives approved the Great American Outdoors Act. The legislation, cosponsored by Higgins, invests in the nation’s natural resources and fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually.
Higgins said, “Parks and natural public spaces provide restorative benefits for communities and for the mind and body of individuals as well. In the midst of a pandemic, as we feel anxious and disconnected, we have a new appreciation for the comfort and connection parks deliver. The Great American Outdoors Act affirms our national commitment to preserve, enhance and expand outdoor destinations.”
The LWCF has supported park and public land and water improvements across the country and right here in Western New York. The LWCF state and local assistance program, administered by the National Parks Services, provides matching grants to state and local governments, distributed through a population-based formula, for the creation and expansion of parks and recreational spaces. Since its beginnings in 1965, the LWCF has supported improvements to the Buffalo Zoo, Times Beach on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, Cheektowaga Town Park, Delaware Park, Beaver Island Beach on Grand Island, Artpark in Lewiston, Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown, Gateway Harbor Park in North Tonawanda, Niagara Falls State Park and many other sites across the region.
LWCF is America’s most successful conservation program:
√ Supporting enhanced park and recreational access for local communities throughout the country;
√ Addressing environmental injustice by creating green spaces near low-income communities and communities of color;
√ Strengthening the recreation economy, which is one of the fastest growing economic sectors; and
√ Implementing recommendations from the Climate Crisis action plan.
In addition to fully funding LWCF, this bill will establish the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, providing financial support for projects on federal lands, which are in need of $22 billion in deferred maintenance. Buffalo’s Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site is among the National Parks Service sites that stand to benefit.
Higgins has been outspoken about the role parks can play in healing the nation in the wake of the pandemic and in uniting communities. The congressman also recently pressed for full public access to waterfront sites along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, which, his camp said, “are inexplicably closed during the COVID crisis when people are especially eager for active and passive recreation destinations to safely visit.
“Coming in the wake of President Trump’s numerous Environmental Protection Agency policy rollbacks, this bill represents Congress’ continued commitment to environmental protection.”
The bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act passed in the House by a vote of 310-107. The legislation was previously approved by the Senate and now moves to the president’s desk.