Increasing Outdoor Access

Ensuring every American, regardless of income or background, has access to America’s vast public lands network 

Adult and two kids in a field of yellow flowers.

“Every child in America deserves to have a safe and nearby place to experience the great outdoors. Working together with state, local and Tribal governments, we are committed to advancing environmental justice and ensuring equitable access to nature and its benefits.”

Secretary Deb Haaland

It has never been more important to invest in America’s public lands and waters to strengthen the nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness, create good-paying jobs, and help combat climate change.

At the Interior Department, we understand that nature is essential to the health, well-being and prosperity of every family and every community in America. These are the places that connect us, that support our economies, and that keep us healthy. President Biden reflected this priority by making expanding access to outdoor recreation one of the six focus areas of the America the Beautiful initiative, and re-launching the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation.

Outdoor recreation is a huge economic driver for the nation, generating more than $374 billion in revenue in 2020 and accounting for nearly 2% of the economy, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The Department is committed to supporting the outdoor recreation economy and the many benefits that hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, biking and other activities offer for healthy communities, economies and wildlife.

But not everyone has the same access to nature. Bringing the outdoors, and the wonders of the natural world, closer to people is at the heart of our mission. To help address inequitable access to nature and its benefits, the Department is working to create more parks and safe outdoor opportunities in nature-deprived communities, many of which are communities of color or low-income communities.

  • Through the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), the Department is investing in much-needed maintenance for critical facilities and infrastructure in our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreation areas and Tribal schools. Signed into law in 2020, GAOA authorized up to $1.6 billion annually for five years to fund deferred maintenance projects on public lands and at Tribal schools.
  • GAOA also provides permanent, full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually to improve recreational opportunities on public lands, protect watersheds and wildlife and preserve ecosystem benefits for local communities. This includes the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program, which is the only LWCF competitive grant program dedicated to addressing the recreational gap in underserved urban areas. Since its inception in 1965, LWCF has funded $5.2 billion to support more than 45,000 projects in every county in the country. 

In 2021 alone, the Department’s GAOA investments will support an estimated 18,851 jobs and contributed $2 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product.

These unprecedented investments will support tens of thousands of jobs, improve public access and visitor experiences, advance environmental justice and contribute billions of dollars to local economies.

These investments also benefit underserved communities and help advance the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to racial equity. GAOA projects will provide an economic boost to underserved communities, contribute to the remediation and reduction of legacy pollution, develop clean water infrastructure and invest in Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools. 

We are committed to addressing the long-delayed maintenance needs of the nation’s aging buildings and infrastructure. Together, we will improve the nation’s conservation and recreation opportunities, protect our national treasures for future generations, and invest in local economies. 

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