Interior Invests $1.6 Billion in Parks, Preserves, and Indigenous Schools

Image: Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management/Flickr

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

The Department of the Interior announced Friday that it will use funds allocated by a conservation bill passed last year to fund 165 national park improvement projects that will create nearly 19,000 jobs.

  •  The Biden administration has pledged to protect 30% of public lands and waters by 2030, but accomplishing that means completing deferred maintenance projects to improve infrastructure like recreation facilities, historic structures, roads, trails, bridges, and more. 
  • Conservation leaders and DOI officials hope that the $1.6 billion investment will support not only public lands but communities recovering from the pandemic.

Why This Matters: Protecting 30 by 30 is crucial to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement as well as protecting one million species from extinction, but only 12% of U.S. lands and 26% of waters are sufficiently protected. To reach the target, an additional 440 million acres will need to be protected within the next 10 years. 

Conserving this land will require maintenance, monitoring, and perhaps most importantly, communication with local communities. Tied into Biden’s environmental plans are promises to respect Indigenous sovereignty as well as working hand in hand with local tribes. This investment represents a first step in fulfilling those promises.

Show Me the Money: The Great American Outdoors Act passed in 2020 with bipartisan support and provided $1.6 billion annually for five years for improvement projects. It also allocated $900 million to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) which supports the acquisition and maintenance of new land for parks and reserves. “Through the Great American Outdoors Act, we are investing in the American people, and in the future of our public lands and sacred spaces,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a statement. Among the 165 projects to be funded is the restoration of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.

This $1.6 billion investment won’t just kick start land and wildlife projects but will also support Bureau of Indian Education schools, which have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. Half of all Indigenous homes lack access to a computer or internet access, making at-home learning nearly impossible for many families. Many have feared that these roadblocks would only widen the existing learning gap facing Indigenous schoolchildren, but hope that with more support from the federal government, recovery is possible.

We must address the long-delayed maintenance needs of the nation’s aging buildings and infrastructure. Importantly, this funding also honors our commitment to tribal communities by investing in Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools for current and future generations,” said Haaland.   


Renewal and Reconciliation: On Thursday, Haaland will travel to Utah to visit Bears Ears National Monument. The trip is prompted by President Biden’s recent order to review the Trump administration’s move to reduce the monument by 2 million acres. While there, Haaland plans to meet with tribes, elected officials, and other leaders about the future of the monument. She is also slated to visit Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which suffered a similar attack from the Trump administration.

This $1.6b  investment is a crucial first step in addressing the $12 billion of maintenance backlogs to restore public lands and support the communities that rely on them.


Up Next

Melting Russian Permafrost Threatens Buildings and Infrastructure

Melting Russian Permafrost Threatens Buildings and Infrastructure

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The earth is collapsing under Russia’s northeastern towns as global warming melts the permafrost beneath them. Permafrost occupies 65% of Russia’s landmass, making this massive thawing particularly destructive.    “There isn’t a single settlement in Russia’s Arctic where you wouldn’t find a destroyed or deformed building,” said Alexey Maslakov, […]

Continue Reading 280 words
New WWF Initiative Supports Black Land Ownership

New WWF Initiative Supports Black Land Ownership

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Heirs’ property is a type of land ownership whereby property is passed down without a will, and it’s one of the main reasons Black families in the US are losing their land. But the Mobile Basin Heirs’ Property Support Initiative announced yesterday could help families in Mississippi’s Mobile Bay […]

Continue Reading 435 words
Biden Reinstates Protections for Three National Monuments

Biden Reinstates Protections for Three National Monuments

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The White House announced Friday that President Biden will use his executive authority to restore protections for three national monuments drastically reduced during the Trump Administration. He will reestablish and increase the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, both of which are in Utah. The orders […]

Continue Reading 396 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.