(House Television via AP) Rep. Xochitl Torres Small
(House Television via AP)

As more people rely on outdoor activities to get out during the coronavirus pandemic, Rep. Xochitl Torres Small introduced legislation to address maintenance and funding issues that will help support the health of public lands. 

The legislation aims to help land management agencies catch up on all the maintenance projects they have planned. It will also provide mandatory, permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), including $12 billion for maintenance and $900 million to invest in public parks, playgrounds, and access to public lands. 

“New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment because of its public lands. They are the backdrop of family gatherings and exploration, a place for respite and healing, and a source of jobs and economic growth. We have a responsibility to protect this land for future generations to enjoy, and I’ve fought for Congress to take action. Today, I’m proud to introduce historic, bipartisan legislation, Great American Outdoors Act, which will fully fund the LWCF and restore public lands across the country,” said Torres Small in a statement.

The new influx of funding would mean more funding for playgrounds, local parks, and recreational facilities. 

Maintaining public lands is also important for people who enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and hunting. Ray Trejo, who serves as the southern New Mexico coordinator for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said the new legislation will “make a promise to future generations of Southern New Mexicans that they will be able to enjoy the water, wildlife, and land to which we are so deeply connected.”

Increasing funding for public lands also has the added benefit of creating jobs. For example, getting through the backlog of maintenance projects will require hiring contractors from the district.