Great Amer­i­can Out­doors Act, with bi­par­ti­san back­ing, means more out­doors for all

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - DALE BOW­MAN dbow­man@suntimes.com | @Bow­manOut­side

Through the su­per­pow­ers of the out­doors, the U.S. House reached a bi­par­ti­san mo­ment for the ages last Wed­nes­day and passed the Great Amer­i­can Out­doors Act by a vote of 310-107. In June, the Se­nate passed the GAOA by a vote of 73-25. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is ex­pected to sign it.

“It goes to show that con­ser­va­tion is not a par­ti­san is­sue, and even when there’s a di­vide over many is­sues, we can come to­gether for con­ser­va­tion,” emailed Jeff Raven­scraft, cen­tral Illi­nois re­gional di­rec­tor for the Na­tional Wild Tur­key Fed­er­a­tion. “This is the great­est leg­is­la­tion that has passed for con­ser­va­tion in decades. It is now in­cum­bent upon sports­men to hold the agen­cies ac­count­able to spend the money in a timely and ben­e­fi­cial man­ner.”

For a com­pa­ra­ble mo­ment, you prob­a­bly have to go back to Pres­i­dent Franklin Roo­sevelt sign­ing the Mi­gra­tory Bird Hunt­ing and Con­ser­va­tion Stamp Act (Duck Stamp Act) into law in 1934.

The GAOA, a com­bi­na­tion of two bills, pro­vides full fund­ing for the Land and Water Con­ser­va­tion Fund at $900 mil­lion an­nu­ally (for gov­ern­ment agen­cies) and will put $9.5 bil­lion to­ward the de­ferred main­te­nance back­log on public lands over the next five years.

While $9.5 bil­lion is not chump change, there’s a huge back­log for main­te­nance. The Shawnee Na­tional For­est alone has a $15 mil­lion back­log, Raven­scraft wrote.

As to the first part of the GAOA, the LWCF has rarely func­tioned as cre­ated by Congress in 1964. The in­tent was for $900 mil­lion an­nu­ally from off­shore oil and gas roy­al­ties to be used for con­ser­va­tion projects. In­stead, over the years, $20 bil­lion was di­verted from the LWCF.

“The best part of the Great Amer­i­can Out­doors Act is the per­ma­nently pro­tected fund­ing mech­a­nism of $900 mil­lion per year,” emailed Jared Wik­lund, public re­la­tions man­ager for Pheas­ants For­ever. “In the [LWCF’s] 55 years of ex­is­tence, al­lo­ca­tions have only reached that mark on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions — a ma­jor short­fall for con­ser­va­tion in Amer­ica that has now been ad­dressed.”

LWCF grants can go for a wide va­ri­ety of projects at the lo­cal level.

“Fund­ing from GAOA, specif­i­cally as it re­lates to the LWCF, ben­e­fits com­mu­ni­ties broadly — public pools, parks, fish­ing-ac­cess sites and new public lands in gen­eral,” Wik­lund wrote. “The funds can be used a lot of ways to best suit lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, and now they are pro­tected for­ever.”

In the Chicago area, LWCF monies have been used for pur­poses as var­ied as shore­line sta­bi­liza­tion at Illi­nois Beach State Park and ac­qui­si­tions for the Wolf Road Prairie and Kanka­kee River SP, in ad­di­tion to mul­ti­tudes of lo­cal park projects. Ur­ban green spa­ces should ben­e­fit from ac­tu­ally fund­ing LWCF.

“The out­come is a net gain in public lands con­served in per­pe­tu­ity,” Wik­lund wrote.

Mean­while, in Spring­field

The Illi­nois Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources is con­sid­er­ing what to do (if any­thing) with daily draws for dove and wa­ter­fowl hunt­ing dur­ing the pan­demic.

Clar­ity on Chicago launches

To quash a ru­mor, Chicago launches are not shut on week­ends, other than 31st Street. The Burn­ham launch was or­dered closed last Satur­day by the city as a safety pre­cau­tion, as was other park­ing around the Mu­seum Cam­pus. In gen­eral, the Di­versey, Burn­ham, Jackson Park and Calumet Park launches are open as usual, while 31st is closed week­ends, with lim­ited park­ing and hours Mon­day through Friday.

Stray cast

Be­fore base­ball stops for 2020, I hope a cou­ple of kids sneak in and hide be­hind cutouts at Sox Park, just as I hope kids learn dur­ing the pan­demic to fish quasi­le­gal ponds in in­dus­trial parks.

Bru­ins play­ers said they plan to lock arms dur­ing the U.S. and Cana­dian na­tional an­thems to pro­mote racial equal­ity, while mem­bers of the Fly­ers and Pen­guins lined up to­gether Tues­day be­fore the first ex­hi­bi­tion game of the NHL’s restarted sea­son.

The NHL said it would spot­light Black Lives Mat­ter and other so­cial-jus­tice is­sues dur­ing open­ing cer­e­monies this week­end in Toronto and Ed­mon­ton, Al­berta. League ex­ec­u­tive Steve Mayer said he ex­pects other demon­stra­tions to hap­pen or­gan­i­cally.

‘‘We’ll see how our play­ers re­act nat­u­rally to what we will present open­ing night, but there will be some mo­ments within the open­ing-night cer­e­mony that will touch on Black Lives Mat­ter and so­cial jus­tice,’’ Mayer said.

The Bru­ins be­came the first team to an­nounce its in­ten­tions to high­light racial in­jus­tice as part of what play­ers said is ‘‘a sign of sol­i­dar­ity with the Black com­mu­nity.’’

NBA Lak­ers star Davis (eye) day-to-day

Lak­ers star An­thony Davis’ sta­tus is un­cer­tain with the NBA restart be­gin­ning Thurs­day in Or­lando, Florida.

Davis, who left the Lak­ers’ sec­ond scrim­mage after get­ting poked in the eye and didn’t play in their ex­hi­bi­tion fi­nale, didn’t prac­tice with the team Tues­day and still is of­fi­cially listed as day-to-day.

‘‘There is some con­cern that he could po­ten­tially not play Thurs­day [against the Clip­pers], but we’re hope­ful that he does, and we’ll see how that plays out,’’ Lak­ers coach Frank Vo­gel said. ‘‘He’s go­ing to con­tinue to be eval­u­ated each day.’’

COL­LEGES NCAA gives OK for foot­ball Aug. 29

The NCAA an­nounced it is al­low­ing all ma­jor-col­lege foot­ball teams to be­gin their sea­sons as early as Aug. 29.

The of­fi­cial start of the sea­son had been La­bor Day week­end, with a few games sched­uled for Aug. 29, but that was be­fore the coro­n­avirus pan­demic put the sea­son in peril and sched­ules were re­made to deal with po­ten­tial dis­rup­tions of COVID-19.

Ohio State said it will limit home crowds to about 20,000 — with masks and so­cial dis­tanc­ing — and pro­hibit tail­gat­ing if the foot­ball sea­son is played this fall.

Iowa paused its men’s bas­ket­ball work­outs for 14 days after two play­ers tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19, the school an­nounced.

MLS Fire pick up 2021 op­tion on Born­stein

The Fire an­nounced they ex­er­cised their op­tion on de­fender Jonathan Born­stein’s con­tract for the 2021 sea­son. Born­stein, 36, has started all 15 games he has played in since join­ing the Fire in July 2019.


The Land and Water Con­ser­va­tion Fund helps fi­nance projects such as shore­line sta­bi­liza­tion at Illi­nois Beach State Park (above).


The Bru­ins say they plan to stand in ‘‘sol­i­dar­ity with the Black com­mu­nity’’ dur­ing the NHL restart.

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