The Great American Outdoors Act, P.L. 116-152




August 28, 2020
The Great American Outdoors Act, P.L. 116-152
The Great American Outdoors Act—P.L. 116-152—
70% share, FS 15%, FWS 5%, BLM 5%, and BIE 5% for
established a new fund with mandatory spending authority
its schools. The agencies must use the funding for “priority
to address deferred maintenance needs of five federal
deferred maintenance projects.” At least 65% of each
agencies. The law also made available the deposits to an
agency’s funds is for “non-transportation projects.” In
existing fund—the Land and Water Conservation Fund
general, the President is to submit lists of priority projects
(LWCF)—as mandatory spending and made other changes
to Congress with annual budget justifications.
to the LWCF Act (54 U.S.C. §§200301 et seq.). Section 1
Appropriations acts may specify an “alternate allocation.” If
of the law provides the short title as the “Great American
Congress does not enact an alternate allocation by the
Outdoors Act.” Section 2 pertains to the new deferred
enactment date of the full-year appropriations for Interior,
maintenance fund, and Section 3 relates to the LWCF. This
Environment, and Related Agencies (or if Congress enacts
In Focus addresses selected provisions of the law.
an alternate allocation of less than the full amount), the
President is to allocate amounts. It is not entirely clear if the
National Parks and Public Land Legacy
President must allocate the funds in accordance with the
Restoration Fund
priorities specified in the budget submission.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Forest Service
Whether deposits to the Legacy Restoration Fund will reach
(FS), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and National Park
the $1.9 billion cap in each year is uncertain. Given that the
Service (NPS) maintain thousands of diverse assets, such as
fund receives 50% of federal energy revenues deposited in
roads and buildings. Each agency has a backlog of deferred
the Treasury as miscellaneous receipts during the preceding
maintenance (DM), defined as maintenance not performed
fiscal year, these revenues would have to total $3.8 billion
as needed and put off for a future time. For FY2018, the
in a given year for the cap to be reached. DOI revenue
backlog for NPS was reported at $11.9 billion, FS at $5.2
disbursement data show that Treasury miscellaneous
billion, FWS at $1.3 billion, and BLM at $1.0 billion.
receipts from natural resource extraction ranged annually
Additionally, the Department of the Interior (DOI) reported
from $2.2 billion to $8.2 billion for FY2010-FY2019.
DM of $1.8 billion for Indian Affairs, including the Bureau
These revenues came primarily from offshore energy
of Indian Education (BIE). For all the agencies except BIE,
development, and especially from offshore oil and gas
a major portion of DM is in transportation assets.
leasing. Future revenues would depend on factors including
oil and gas prices, production levels, and federal leasing
In the past, most funding for agency DM has come from
policies, among others. For example, deposits to the fund
discretionary appropriations. The agencies also have
for FY2021 (reflecting FY2020 revenues) and potentially
mandatory spending authorities, including transportation
beyond could be affected by changes in oil prices and
maintenance funding under the Fixing America’s Surface
energy use patterns attributed to the Coronavirus Disease
Transportation Act (P.L. 114-94), entrance and recreation
2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
fees under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act
(16 U.S.C. §§6801-6814), and others.
Land and Water Conservation Fund
P.L. 116-152 established the National Parks and Public
Under the LWCF Act, $900 million is deposited annually
Land Legacy Restoration Fund (Legacy Restoration Fund)
into the LWCF. Nearly all of the revenue is derived from oil and
to address DM for the five agencies (NPS, FS, FWS, BLM,
gas leasing offshore. Prior to P.L. 116-152, the money had
and BIE). The fund is to receive annual deposits for
been available only if appropriated in subsequent law and
FY2021-FY2025 of 50% of all federal energy revenues
thus was considered discretionary spending. The annual
(from oil, gas, coal, or renewable energy) credited in the
appropriations generally were less than $900 million,
preceding fiscal year as miscellaneous receipts to the
resulting in an unappropriated balance of approximately
Treasury, up to a cap of $1.9 billion annually. The law
$22 billion through FY2019.
states that it would not affect the disposition of energy
revenues due to states, trust funds, or special funds (such as
The LWCF Act sets out authorized purposes of the fund,
the LWCF or the Historic Preservation Fund, 54 U.S.C.
relating to federal land acquisition and outdoor recreation
§303102) and that it would not affect revenues that have
grants to states. Appropriations also have been provided for
been otherwise appropriated under federal law—for
other programs. The LWCF Act requires the President’s
example, under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act
annual budget to identify requirements from the fund, sets
(GOMESA; 43 U.S.C. §1331 note) or the Mineral Leasing
out “federal purposes” for which the President is to allot
Act (30 U.S.C. §191).
appropriations “unless otherwise allotted in the
appropriation Act making them available,” and provides
Of the amounts deposited in the fund each year (up to $1.9
that not less than 40% of total monies are to be used for
billion annually, as described above), NPS is to receive a
each of federal purposes and “financial assistance to states.”
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The Great American Outdoors Act, P.L. 116-152
Congress typically has reviewed presidential budget
intended to allow greater flexibility in acquiring lands for
requests for LWCF appropriations for agencies, accounts,
the National Forest System. Advocates of retaining the
and programs, and it has determined the total appropriation
100th meridian provision sought to limit acquisitions in the
and the portion for each component.
West, where most federal lands are located, and foster
acquisitions in the East.
The LWCF receives additional money (beyond the $900
million in the LWCF Act) under GOMESA. These
Budgetary Implications of Great American
appropriations are mandatory spending and can be used
Outdoors Act
only for outdoor recreation grants to states. States can
receive a maximum of $125 million annually in mandatory
P.L. 116-152 provides mandatory spending for activities
funding under GOMESA (except in FY2021 and FY2022
that, in the past, have been funded with discretionary
when the annual maximum is $162.5 million). P.L. 116-152
spending (i.e., through the annual appropriations process).
made the $900 million annual deposits into the fund under
As a result, such funding would no longer be considered
the LWCF Act mandatory spending (in addition to
within annual discretionary spending limits, such as the
GOMESA mandatory spending). Thus, currently, a
statutory limits (currently through FY2021) and the
maximum exceeding $1.0 billion in mandatory spending for
appropriations subcommittee allocations under the
LWCF programs generally is available each year.
Congressional Budget Act (2 U.S.C. §633). The
Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the law
The mandatory appropriations under the LWCF Act would
would increase mandatory spending outlays by almost $5.9
be available “to carry out the purposes of the Fund,”
billion over 6 years (FY2020-FY2025) and almost $17.3
including accounts and programs funded from the LWCF
billion over 11 years (FY2020-FY2030). (The CBO
under P.L. 116-94. Division D of that law provided FY2020
estimate is available at https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/
appropriations for Interior, Environment, and Related
2020-07/HR1957directspending.pdf.)
Agencies. It contained funding from the LWCF for
purposes including federal land acquisition, outdoor
For Further Reading
recreation grants to states, the Forest Legacy program
On deferred maintenance, see CRS Report R43997,
(administered by FS), the Cooperative Endangered Species
Deferred Maintenance of Federal Land Management
Conservation Fund (administered by FWS), the American
Agencies: FY2009-FY2018 Estimates and Issues, by Carol
Battlefield Protection Program (administered by NPS), and
Hardy Vincent; and CRS Report R44924, National Park
the DOI Appraisal and Valuation Services Office. P.L. 116-
Service Deferred Maintenance: Frequently Asked
152 could be unclear as to whether it applies to the funding
Questions, by Laura B. Comay. On the LWCF, see CRS
specifications in the explanatory material for P.L. 116-94.
Report RL33531, Land and Water Conservation Fund:
Overview, Funding History, and Issues
, by Carol Hardy
To allocate the funds, P.L. 116-152 generally requires the
Vincent. On the budget process, including discretionary and
President to submit annually to Congress “detailed account,
mandatory appropriations, see CRS Report R46240,
program, and project allocations” for the full amount
Introduction to the Federal Budget Process, by James V.
available. The law provides for alternate allocations by
Saturno.
Congress under a procedure similar to that described above
for the Legacy Restoration Fund.
Carol Hardy Vincent, Specialist in Natural Resources
Policy
In addition to making the LWCF mandatory spending, P.L.
116-152 repealed a provision of the LWCF Act that had
Laura B. Comay, Specialist in Natural Resources Policy
limited FS land acquisitions west of the 100th meridian.
Bill Heniff Jr., Analyst on Congress and the Legislative
Following a 2019 report by the Government Accountability
Process
Office (GAO-20-175R) that FS acquisitions were not in
IF11636
compliance with the 100th meridian provision, the FS began
adhering to the provision. The repeal of the provision was


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The Great American Outdoors Act, P.L. 116-152


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