WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday proposed funding for dozens of conservation and recreation projects across the country as it allocates $2.8 billion in grants and programs authorized by a landmark conservation law enacted last year.
Congress approved the Great American Outdoors Act by wide, bipartisan majorities with a mandate to support rural economies, boost outdoor recreation and improve access to public lands. The law authorizes $900 million per year — double previous spending — for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and $1.9 billion per year on improvements at national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and rangelands.
Projected spending in the next fiscal year includes $19.4 million to rehabilitate the Ahwahnee Hotel at Yosemite National Park in California, and $91.3 million at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to replace the Yellowstone River Bridge and upgrade the wastewater treatment system at the park’s Old Faithful geyser.
On the other side of the country, the National Park Service is set to spend $27.4 million to repair historic structures at the Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord, Mass., and $32.8 million to improve the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. Minute Man is among those that will be featured in upcoming commemorations of the 250th anniversary of the United States.
The Interior Department also plans to spend a total of $77 million at Big Bend National Park in Texas to rehabilitate a water system and repair the Chisos Mountain Lodge, and $24.9 million at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio to stabilize its riverbank and support its well-used towpath trail.
All are tourist destinations that expect to see an increase in visitors as restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic ease. The administration said the investments are consistent with its “America the Beautiful” initiative, a decadelong, voluntary conservation effort that aims to protect nearly one-third of America’s lands and waters by 2030.
“One of the best investments we can make is in stewarding the lands and waters that sustain us and the generations to come,’’ Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “Today we are making critical investments that will create tens of thousands of jobs, safeguard the environment and help ensure that national parks and public lands are ready to meet the challenges of climate change and increased visitation.’’
The spending plan announced Thursday also addresses a multibillion-dollar backlog on maintenance, repairs and improvements in national parks and other public lands, Haaland said.