By Darlene Superville | The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed into law legislation that will devote nearly $3 billion annually to conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands.
The measure had been overwhelmingly approved by Congress.
“There hasn’t been anything like this since Teddy Roosevelt, I suspect,” Trump said about the 26th president, who created many national parks, forests and monuments to preserve the nation’s natural resources.
Supporters say the Great American Outdoors Act is the most significant conservation legislation enacted in nearly half a century. Opponents counter that the money isn’t enough to cover the estimated $20 billion maintenance backlog on federally owned lands.
The funds will help complete infrastructure projects, expand recreational opportunities, support local economies and help preserve Olympic National Park, according to Penny Wagner, park spokesperson.
In Olympic National Park, the cost of deferred maintenance on 1,095 facilities was $126,501,262, with critical systems deferral estimated at $22,294,741, as of Sept. 30, 2018, according to the National Park Service.
Wagner said funding for specific projects will be announced in the future.
The newly signed law requires full, mandatory funding of the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund and addresses the maintenance backlog facing America’s national parks and public lands.
The law would spend about $900 million a year — double current spending — on the conservation fund and another $1.9 billion per year on improvements at national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and range lands.
Trump in his budgets to Congress had previously recommended slashing the amount of money allocated to the fund, but he reversed course and called for full funding in March.
Supporters say the legislation will create at least 100,000 jobs, while restoring national parks and repairing trails and forest systems.
The park maintenance backlog has been a problem for decades, through Republican and Democratic administrations.
The House and the Senate cleared both bills by overwhelming bipartisan margins this summer.
Sens. Patty Murray of Seattle and Maria Cantwell of Mountlake Terrace cosponsored the bill in the Senate, as did Rep. Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor in the House. All three are Democrats.
The Peninsula Daily News contributed to this story.