ASLA Helps Pass Legislation to Bring Outdoor Recreational Opportunities to Underserved Communities

House of Representatives Passes the Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act.


On February 26, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 803, the Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act. This legislation creates nearly 1.5 million acres of new wilderness areas and adds over 1,000 miles to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Additionally, this legislation protects 1.2 million acres of public land from new oil and gas exploitation and extraction.

During the amendments process, two ASLA priorities were inserted into the Protecting America's Wilderness and Public Lands Act.

The first amendment added the Outdoors for All Act, which would provide long-term authorization for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Project (ORLP). ORLP is a grant program that is part of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Specifically, ORLP funds urban parks in underserved areas including Black and other minority communities. ASLA has long supported the ORLP and worked with partner organizations, champions in Congress, and administration officials to protect the program. Last year, then-Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt canceled ORLP and zeroed out its funding. In our policy recommendations to the incoming Biden-Harris administration, ASLA recommended that the administration reverse Sec. Bernhardt’s actions which the acting-Secretary of the Interior did on February 11, 2021.

After passage of the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act and the ORLP amendment, Outdoors for All Act and amendment sponsor Rep. Nanette Barragan issued a press release to announce the victory. The press release included a quote from ASLA CEO Torey Carter-Conneen, which stated:

“The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) reflects ASLA’s belief that all people should have access to quality parks and outdoor space. With the House of Representatives passing the Outdoors for All Act, we are one step closer to ensuring this important program can continue its mission of creating parks in urban and underserved communities.”

The other ASLA-supported amendment included parts of Rep. Deb Haaland’s (NM) Environmental Justice in Recreational Permitting Act. This amendment requires federal land management agencies like the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management to conduct a study on how well the existing systems for issuing recreational permits to outfitters, guides, and other recreational service providers serve environmental justice communities. The amendment defines “environmental justice community” as a community with significant representation of communities of color, low-income communities, or Tribal and indigenous communities, that experiences, or is at risk of experiencing, higher or more-adverse human health or environmental effects than other communities. By requiring this study, the amendment would give the agencies more tools for ensuring that their recreation management systems effectively serve all communities. ASLA advocates swung into action to urge their legislators to pass this important amendment.

This legislation will now go to the U.S. Senate for consideration.


Media inquiries

Landscape Architecture Magazine

Jennifer Reut 

The Dirt
Jared Green

The Field
Ali Hay