Billions For “America’s Best Idea”

Great news for America’s National Parks is the “Great American Outdoors Act,” providing desperately needed funding for the nation’s wondrous places.

Most Significant Conservation Legislation In 50 Years

The recent passage and signing of “Great American Outdoors Act” has been hailed as a groundbreaking accomplishment. Finally, there’s new funding for America’s National Parks, said to be the most significant conservation legislation in nearly 50 years. Getting this done in the year 2020 during an extraordinary time of bitter partisan politics, was an unusual feat.

The phrase, “America’s Best Idea” is attributed to renowned film maker, Ken Burns, with his masterful documentary series about America’s National Parks. Here in our neck of the woods at the Florida-Georgia border, an example of “America’s Best Idea,” is just across the river from Amelia Island. One of America’s ten National Seashores (more about Cumberland Island National Seashore is further below).

Great American Outdoors Act Signed

America’s National Parks have needed increased funding for a long time. These extraordinary places that American citizens and travelers from all over the world love to visit, have lacked the money required to keep up with ongoing maintenance.

Neglected for many years by past administrations and Congress, the tab for National Park System deferred maintenance — the backlog — had reportedly risen to over $12 billion.

“A Uniquely American Idea”

“We forget to celebrate that this is a uniquely American idea. This is the Declaration of Independence applied to the landscape. For the first time in human history, land was set aside not for the kings or noblemen, or the very rich, but for everybody and for all time — we invented it.”

SOURCE: Ken Burns, Wilderness Society interview.

“The concept of a “national park” is an American innovation that, in part, grew out of the conservation movement that began in the nineteenth century. When Yellowstone was designated a national park in 1872, it became the first such park in the world.”

U.S. Library Of Congress
“America’s Best Idea”

The YOUTUBE video clip below seems fitting in the current climate of divisive national politics and the pandemic challenges we face. The importance of having vast outdoor spaces where people can spend time outdoors hits home more than ever in 2020. It’s one of several introductory clips about the Ken Burns series “America’s Best Idea.” (Timely now, even though it dates back about a decade ago when the documentary debuted on PBS.)

“Last year, the National Park Service welcomed 327 million visitors and supported more than 340,000 jobs. Increasing popularity of our public lands has resulted in our national parks needing upgrades and improvements for more than 5,500 miles of paved roads, 17,000 miles of trails and 24,000 buildings. This legislation finally provides a long-term solution to this significant issue for the benefit of the American people and the betterment of our public lands.”

U.S. Dept. of Interior, press release
Groundbreaking Funding For National Parks

H.R. 1957, the “Great American Outdoors Act,” was signed into law by President Trump on August 4, 2020. According to a news release from the U.S. Dept of Interior, this landmark conservation legislation will provide up to $1.9 billion a year for five years in the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund. The Land and Water Conservation Fund will also be permanently funded at $900 million a year to invest in conservation and recreation opportunities across the country.

Finally with passage of Law 116-152, America’s extraordinary places will get the money they deserve, and continue to operate “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Island, Georgia's Gorgeous Sand Dunes, Atlantic Ocean Seashore
Cumberland Island, Crossing The Dunes, Atlantic Ocean Seashore

Here at the Florida-Georgia border, Amelia Island’s northern neighbor just across the river is the Cumberland Island National Seashore. Cumberland Island, GA became protected in 1972 when the majority of this wilderness island became a National Seashore.

PUBLIC LAW 92-536 – OCT. 23, 1972

“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that in order to provide for public outdoor recreation and use and enjoyment of certain significant shoreline lands and waters of the United States, and to preserve related scenic, scientific, and historical values, there is established in the State of Georgia the Cumberland Island National Shore…”

SOURCE: U.S. Statutes, Vol. 86, 92nd Congress, 1972
Riding Bikes on Empty Beach, Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia
Empty Beach, Cumberland Island National Seashore
Nature Nurtures

With many more people avoiding the confines of indoor spaces during COVID-19, more are opting to hit the trails and spend more time outdoors in natural places. Besides the suggestion by the medical/scientific community that being outdoors is “safer” during the pandemic, past research studies have indicated that being out in nature offers mental health/therapeutic benefits.

Nearby Cumberland Island National Seashore is such a place, both a feast for the eyes and soul. Visitors can expect solitary walks on miles of tranquil, deserted beachfront and maritime forest trails. It’s such a special place of quiet serenity. And while perfect for exploring nature, history buffs with find Cumberland fascinating as well. Learn more about visiting Cumberland Island, GA.

Note that some hosted tours at Cumberland Island National Seashore remain closed due to the pandemic. The ferry to Cumberland Island is operating with limited capacity and masks are required, see related article about COVID-19 procedures.

“America’s Best Investment”

America’s parks are a national treasure, and many would agree that they’re priceless. But a study last year attempted to put a price tag on their annual value. Published in 2019, this in-depth analysis estimates their worth to the U.S. economy, “Valuing U.S. National Parks and Programs: America’s Best Investment.”

Worth $100 Billion A Year

Described as the “first comprehensive economic valuation” of U.S. Parks and National Park Service programs, according to the analysis, America’s National Parks provide a $100 billion-plus per year contribution to the U.S. economy.

Related Content:

To learn more see “The Harvard Gazette, National Parks’ Economic Benefits Put At Over $100 Billion Annually.”

Also see further info about The Great American Outdoors Act,” public Law 116–152, 116th (August 4, 2020), at Congress.gov.

“There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human well­ being…you can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature,” see more at the American Psychological Association’s website.