A WIN FOR EVERYONE
Great American Outdoors Act, with bipartisan backing, means more outdoors for all
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.
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.