WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act Tuesday, green-lighting funds for restoration and improvements to public lands, including at Cape Lookout National Seashore and Croatan National Forest.
The Great American Outdoors Act provides up to $1.9 billion annually from 2021-25 for the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund. The funds will be available for “priority deferred maintenance projects” at national parks and forests, among other federally managed public lands and facilities. In Carteret County, Croatan National Forest and Cape Lookout National Seashore stand to receive money from this program.
When asked about what he thinks funds would be best spent on at Cape Lookout, NPS Cape Lookout Superintendent Jeff West said the act doesn’t spell out procedures, account or priority selection.
“The details are often the hard, time consuming part,” he said. “At this time no one knows how the money will be allocated for the five-year life of the bill.”
Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., said in a press release Cape Lookout may receive $27,718,515 from the act. Mr. West said this amount is in reference to the total deferred maintenance at Cape Lookout.
“Now that the bill is signed, it will likely go through several government agencies who’re responsible for account for expenditures to define procedures and accountability,” Mr. West said. “Then it will go to (the U.S. Department of the Interior) for more definition, and then to the NPS for specifics.”
Mr. West said as a guess, he thinks funds will be allocated based on major needs across the NPS, then based on need and logical order of the projects in all the other parks.
“Until all the background work is done, I have no idea what projects will be funded, or to what extend they’ll be funded,” he said. “Since this is specific funding, based on law with specific parameters, I can’t just ‘spend’ it on what I want to spend it on.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Ron Hudson, who serves as district ranger for Croatan National Forest, said while USFS staff don’t yet know how much funding they’ll receive, it will help them with capital improvement projects.
“We’re excited to be able to fund things like road improvements,” Mr. Hudson said. “We have a lot of roads to maintain, a lot are dirt and gravel roads.”
According to Mr. Hudson, there’s $63 million in deferred maintenance costs in all the national forests in North Carolina. For Croatan Forest, the dollar figure comes to $468,000 in deferred maintenance.
“I’m sure the public would appreciate better roads in the Croatan,” Mr. Hudson said. “It’s a good thing this act was passed.”
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.