Contact: Shantha Ready Alonso, Creation Justice Ministries 202-618-2501 (mobile) firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, DC --- Today, the US Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422) with a strong bipartisan 73-25 vote. This bill, for the first time, will permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) with $900 million annually. The bill also will create a five-year fund to reduce the current $20 billion deferred maintenance backlog on federally managed public lands. Now, the US House of Representatives must pass the companion bill, so a final version can be signed into law.
Creation Justice Ministries Executive Director Shantha Ready Alonso commented on the passage of the bill, “Religious communities strongly support increasing peoples' access to parks. Faith communities know first-hand that in this time of a pandemic and profound reckonings with our country’s racism, we are all in desperate need of the physical and mental healing power of God's creation. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is particularly suited to provide much-needed access to safe, well-maintained parks in communities of color, and it is long past time to rectify disparities in access to outdoor recreation opportunities. I look forward to a near future when park planners can leverage these new resources to prioritize recreation spaces in under-served communities.”
Religious communities know much is at stake for their local communities to benefit from public lands funding. In years leading up to the bill’s passage, religious communities have shown support, most recently with a letter from 50 Arizona clergy to Senators Kyrsten Synema and Martha McSally which stated, “Beloved places such as South Mountain Park, Cortez Park, Sahuaro Ranch Park, White Tank Mountain Regional Park, and Veterans Memorial Park have benefited from LWCF, and this must continue.” Organizer of this letter Rev. Katie Sexton of Arizona Faith Network said of the Senate Bill's passage, "As people of many faiths, we are grateful that our Senators recognize the sacredness of creation and have worked to protect it. In these anxious times, God's creation helps to heal our wounds. Today's vote brings us one step closer to ensuring God's creation continues to endure as a place of Sabbath, refuge, and joy for generations to come.”
Religious communities are responding pastorally and practically to economic distress from the pandemic, and also welcome the job opportunities that will come from this legislation. The bill will put tens of thousands of people back to work and deliver real, enduring benefits to our public lands and the US economy. Research on the impact of the LWCF shows that $1 spent generates $4 in economic value from natural resource goods and services alone. A just-released economic analysis shows that every $1 million invested in LWCF could support between 16.8 and 30.8 jobs. Alternative uses of the funds would create fewer jobs - for instance, the oil and gas industry would support half as many jobs per $1 million investment.
Creation Justice Ministries is a membership organization that represents the creation care and environmental justice policies of 38 Christian denominations, communions and fellowships from Orthodox, Mainline Protestant, Baptist, Peace, and Historically Black church traditions. Through its members, it serves approximately 100,000 congregations and 35 million people.