The Great American Outdoors Act, H.R. 1957:
Selected Provisions

July 17, 2020
The Great American Outdoors Act—H.R. 1957, as passed by the Senate—would establish a new fund
with mandatory spending authority to address deferred maintenance needs of five federal agencies. In
addition, the bil would make the deposits to an existing fund—the Land and Water Conservation Fund
mandatory spending and make other changes to the LWCF Act. This Insight addresses some of
the main provisions of this legislation.
Section 1 of H.R. 1957 provides the short title as the “Great American Outdoors Act.” Section 2 pertains
to the new deferred maintenance fund, and Section 3 relates to the LWCF.
“National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund” (Section 2)
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Forest Service (FS), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and
National Park Service (NPS) maintain thousands of diverse assets, including roads, buildings, and others.
Each agency has a backlog of deferred maintenance (DM), defined as maintenance not performed as
needed and put off for a future time. For FY2018, NPS’s backlog was reported at $11.9 bil ion, FS’s at
$5.2 bil ion, FWS’s at $1.3 bil ion, and BLM’s at $1.0 bil ion. Additional y, the Department of the
Interior (DOI) reported DM of $1.8 bil ion for Indian Affairs, including the Bureau of Indian Education
(BIE). For al the agencies except BIE, a sizeable portion of DM is in transportation assets.
Most current funding for agency DM comes from discretionary appropriations. The agencies also have
some mandatory spending authorities, including (among others) transportation maintenance funding
under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.
H.R. 1957 would establish a new mandatory fund to address DM for the five agencies (NPS, FS, FWS,
BLM, and BIE). The new fund would receive annual deposits for FY2021-FY2025 of 50% of al federal
energy revenues
(from oil, gas, coal, or renewable energy) credited as miscel aneous receipts to the
Treasury, up to a cap of $1.9 bil ion annual y. The bil states that it would not affect energy revenues
appropriated under other laws, such as state revenue shares under the Mineral Leasing Act and the Gulf of
Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA), or deposits to the LWCF and the Historic Preservation
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Of the amounts deposited each year in the fund (up to $1.9 bil ion annual y, as described above), NPS
would receive a 70% share, FS 15%, FWS 5%, BLM 5%, and BIE 5% for its schools. The agencies
would use the funding for “priority deferred maintenance projects.” At least 65% of each agency’s funds
would be for “non-transportation projects.” In general, the President would submit lists of priority
projects to Congress in annual budget justifications. Appropriations acts may specify an “alternate
al ocation.” If alternate al ocations have not been enacted before enactment of the full-year appropriations
for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, or if legislation containing alternate al ocations of less
than the full amount were enacted, the President would have the authority to al ocate amounts. The
meaning of these provisions may not be entirely clear; for instance, it is not entirely clear if the President
must al ocate the funds in accordance with the President’s budget submission if Congress does not act or
enacts less than the full amount.
It is unclear whether deposits to the DM fund would reach the $1.9 bil ion cap in each year. DOI revenue
disbursement data
show that Treasury miscel aneous receipts from natural resource extraction ranged
annually from $2.2 bil ion to $8.2 billion for FY2010-FY2019. Future revenues would depend on factors
including oil and gas prices, production levels, and federal leasing policies, among others. For example,
future revenues could be affected by changes in oil prices and energy use patterns attributed to the
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Permanent Full Funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund” (Section 3)
Under the LWCF Act, $900 mil ion is deposited annual y into the LWCF. Nearly al of the revenue is derived
from oil and gas leasing offshore. The money is available only if appropriated in subsequent law and is
considered discretionary spending. The annual appropriations general y have been less than $900 mil ion,
resulting in an unappropriated balance of approximately $22 bil ion through FY2019. Under the LWCF
Act, authorized purposes include federal land acquisition and outdoor recreation grants to states.
Appropriations also have been provided for other programs.
The LWCF Act requires the President’s annual budget to identify requirements from the fund, sets out
“federal purposes” for which the President is to al ot the appropriations “unless otherwise al otted in the
appropriation Act making them available,” and provides that not less than 40% of total monies are to be
used for each of federal purposes and “financial assistance to states.” In practice, Congress reviews
presidential budget requests for LWCF appropriations for agencies, accounts, and programs, and it
determines the total appropriation and the portion for each component.
The LWCF receives additional money (beyond the $900 mil ion in the LWCF Act) under GOMESA.
These appropriations are mandatory spending and can be used only for outdoor recreation grants to states.
H.R. 1957 would make the $900 mil ion annual deposits into the fund under the LWCF Act mandatory
spending (in addition to GOMESA mandatory appropriations). The monies would be available “to carry
out the purposes of the Fund,” including accounts and programs funded from the LWCF under P.L. 116-
H.R. 1957 could be unclear as to whether it applies to the funding specifications in the explanatory
material for P.L. 116-94.
To allocate the funds, the bill generally would require the President to submit annually to
Congress “detailed account, program, and project al ocations” for the ful amount available. The
bill provides for alternate allocations by Congress under a procedure similar to that described
above for the DM section of the bill.

Congressional Research Service
Author Information

Carol Hardy Vincent
Laura B. Comay
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

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