Why the Great American Outdoors Act Matters

During this pandemic-prolonged absence of competitive sports, we can at least count on C-SPAN for a daily dose of distraction and entertainment. The cutthroat arena of political MMA that can only be viewed in the U.S. Senate recently produced a real-world underdog tale for the ages with longstanding implications for outdoor aficionados of all walks.

Earlier this month, the notoriously gridlocked chamber took a major step toward attaining what many consider the Holy Grail of conservation legislation in the modern era. Known as the Great American Outdoors Act, the landmark legislative package—one that provides unprecedented benefits to the nation’s system of public lands—passed through the Senate with a rare showing of bipartisan support. The anticipated slam dunk victory now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives and eventually the Oval Office for the president’s signature.

Should the bill emerge triumphant, it’s the American public that will ultimately reap the spoils. Everyone from hikers to hunters, bikers to boaters, plus millions more who enjoy access to America’s 640 million acres of national public lands for countless other outdoor activities, will be rewarded with increased opportunities and improved infrastructure as they pursue their passions. And in states like Colorado, where the culture is largely rooted in public lands recreation, the ripple effect is expected to make an even bigger impact.

“Colorado’s public lands drive our businesses—from breweries and restaurants, to bike shops and fly-fishing guides—and inspire our adventures with family and friends,” said Steve Fechheimer, CEO of New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, CO. “The passage of GAOA is an incredible milestone in ensuring protections for our environment, our economy and our well-being.”

So What’s in the GAOA?

More than 20 years in the making, the Great American Outdoors Act (S.3422 ) ultimately combines two pieces of public lands legislation. The first piece, dubbed the Restore our Parks Act, establishes a five-year trust generated by revenues from energy development that provides up to $1.9 billion a year to begin addressing the more than $22 billion worth of maintenance backlogs at national parks and other public lands across the country. That includes everything from road and trail maintenance to facility improvements and even wildlife habitat.

The second piece fully and permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) used to buy and improve public land. The fund, which is supposed to receive $900 million a year from offshore drilling royalties, is regularly raided by legislators and has only been fully funded twice since it was established in 1964.

Throughout its history, LWCF funds have been used to acquire and improve public lands in every county of every state, everything from New York’s Central Park to Yellowstone National Park.


When Does It Take Effect?

Once the bill is signed into law by the president, full funding begins in fiscal year 2021. The LWCF has used money from offshore oil and gas drilling royalties to conserve our public lands and waters across the country for more than 50 years already, and legislation passed in 2019 guaranteed that $900 million will be collected for the fund every year. The GAOA ensures that the money will go to its intended purpose.

The GAOA also establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, providing federal land management agencies with critical resources to address the deferred maintenance backlog on our public lands. The fund receives 50 percent of unallocated revenues generated from energy development on federal lands and waters, providing up to $9.5 billion over five years beginning in FY2021 through FY2025.

canoeing wilderness canoe trip Main allagash
Paddling lakes along northern Maine’s Allagash Waterway. Kate Sfeir / Shutterstock

Who Benefits From It?

From rock climbers in Colorado’s Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park to paddlers on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in Maine, just about anyone who enjoys outdoor recreation has seen benefits from the LWCF, and those benefits will increase with the implementation of the GAOA.

Notably, the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund portion of the act promises funding for federal land management agencies above and beyond the National Parks Service. While the NPS will receive 70 percent of the funding ($1.3 billion a year), the remainder will be split between the U.S. Forest Service ($285 million), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ($95 million), Bureau of Land Management ($95 million) and Bureau of Indian Education ($95 million) to fund habitat improvement projects and other maintenance backlogs in those agencies.

“The National Parks Service maintenance backlog is the biggest part of it, but the rest of it is substantial too,” said Corey Fisher of Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “The places that are most important to hunters and anglers are managed by the Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, not the National Parks. So it was super important to groups like TU to have those included.”

Additionally, the LWCF provides matching grants to states and local governments to acquire and develop public outdoor recreation areas and facilities that provide close-to-home recreation opportunities that are readily accessible to youth, adults, senior citizens and the physically or mentally challenged in urban and rural communities.

Why It Matters Now:

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has long been recognized as the most powerful program we have for conserving habitat and opening access to the nation’s most precious natural resources, and its guaranteed funding couldn’t come at a more critical time. President Trump had nearly zeroed out the money for the LWCF in budgets he’d submitted to congress in recent years, only recently coming around in favor of the program that Senate bill sponsor Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) claims supports between 16-30 jobs for every million spent in LWCF funds. Fixing the national parks promises to create as many as 100,000 additional jobs, making the Great American Outdoors Act an essential economic recovery tool that also enhances our public lands and outdoor recreation opportunities.

“The Great American Outdoors Act is an enormous victory for public lands and for rural economies here in the Mountain West,” said Teresa Martinez, Executive Director of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition. “It will address vital needs on our trails and forests. It will create jobs. And by fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund, it will be absolutely critical to our efforts to complete the Continental Divide Trail.”


Why It Matters in the Long Run:

The Great American Outdoors Act offers a sustainable funding solution that expands and protects valuable public lands from the impacts of overuse destined to exacerbation over time. While their popularity continues to grow, America’s national parks and public lands have been underfunded and understaffed for decades. And as urban populations swell, local outdoor recreation opportunities remain in decline, increasing barriers of entry to fundamental activities like hiking, biking and fishing that have emerged as critical ingredients in the recipe for both mental and physical health.

“With the pandemic shining a bright light on the need for equitable access to natural spaces, securing LWCF permanent funding and tackling a substantial portion of the public lands maintenance backlog will greatly increase recreation opportunities on public lands and in neighborhoods across the country, including those that have historically lacked access,” said Kate Van Waes, Executive Director of the American Hiking Society. “The House of Representatives must quickly take up and pass this legislation and send it to the president to be signed into law.”

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Author: Dave Shively

MLB Teams Not Able to Disclose Who Goes on IL With Coronavirus

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that teams have not been given clearance to announce which players end up on the injured list due to COVID-19.

Trying to find out the status of a baseball player coming back from an ankle injury will definitely be easier than learning whether someone tested positive for the coronavirus.

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said during a conference call Tuesday that teams have not been given clearance to announce which players end up on the injured list due to COVID-19. A positive test, medical recommendation or exposure to someone who has had the virus could all put players out of action.

“I believe the information I’ve been given is that you’ll be left to try to figure that out because we would not be (able to disclose),” Cashman said. “It would be a speculating circumstance.”

Non-baseball related injuries do not have be explained in detail under terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

Cashman noted the situation continues to evolve as Major League Baseball and the players’ union continue discussions. Testing of players and staff will begin Wednesday as they report to their teams to resume workouts. They will be tested once every two days.

Last week, Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies became the first Major League Baseball player known to have tested positive. According to reports, the All-Star outfielder was one of three Colorado players to have a positive test.

Numerous other teams have said they have players who have tested positive for the virus without identifying any of them. The Philadelphia Phillies announced seven, while the Detroit Tigers said one player who was living in Florida but not working out at the team’s spring training facilities in Lakeland also tested positive.

Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said a few players have tested positive but declined to specify how many. Several Toronto Blue Jays players and staff members have also tested positive.

Baltimore general manager Mike Elias said the Orioles have had no reported cases and that no one on the team has decided against playing in the shortened season.

He’s hoping for a smooth start to the camp that’s scheduled to begin Friday at Camden Yards.

“We recognize that this will be fluid and everyone is having to make personal decisions and circumstances might not be fully understood until the season starts, but so far we are expecting full participation,” Elias said. “You see in the news around the league that’s not the case everywhere and I wouldn’t be shocked if that ends up happening, but that’s going to be part of this.”

“We’re not pressuring anyone or shaming anyone that feels they shouldn’t be here. We’re making that known, and I think it’s well-received,” Elias added. “Our players have been itching to play for a while. I think the whole delay was frustrating for them, for us, and everyone just wants to go play.”

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Author: Associated Press

Los Angeles Dodgers Fantasy Superlatives: 4 Breakouts On The Come-Up!

Four potential breakout candidates highlight SI Fantasy expert Shawn Childs’s list of fantasy superlatives from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Breakout: SS Corey Seager

After earning a full-time starting job for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016, fantasy owners haven’t seen the best of Seager yet. Last year he missed a month over the summer with a hamstring injury.

His contact batting average (.340) remains below his first two full seasons (.391 and .390). Seager saw fade in his walk rate (8.1) while owning a favorable strikeout rate (18.1).

He had two productive months (May – .264 with five runs, five HRs, and 20 RBI and September – .291 with seven HRs and 26 RBI) while coming up short over his other 316 at-bats (.268 with seven HRs and 41 RBI).

His batting average (.240) had risk against left-handed pitching, but he did have four HRs and 24 RBI over 167 at-bats.

Seager had a low hard-hit rate (37.9 – 190th) with much more strength in this area in 2016 (43.8 – 44th). He had a more balanced swing path in 2019, but his HR/FB rate (12.3) still ranked below his success in 2016 (17.9) and 2017 (16.2).

His RBI rate (18) screams middle-of-the-order bat. In 2020, Seager should regain his high average swing along with a rebound in power.

Based on his ADP (147), he is a complete steal. I fully expected him to hit over .300 in 2020 while delivering a 100/30/100 skill set with a full season of at-bats.

Breakout: 2B Gavin Lux

The Dodgers drafted Lux with the 20th selection in the 2016 June MLB Amateur Draft.

Over four seasons in the minors, he hit .305 with 293 runs, 48 home runs, 193 RBI, and 52 steals over 1,578 at-bats.

His walk rate (11.2) has top of the order value with an above the league average strikeout rate (18.3).

In 2019, Lux blossomed at AAA (.347 with 99 runs, 26 HRs, 76 RBI, and ten SBs over 458 at-bats). LA called him up in September while giving him a start on most nights (.240 with two HRs, nine RBI, and two SBs over 75 at-bats).

His overall game projects well as number two-hitter with his skill-set having a better than Chase Utley feel.

I expect sneaky speed with an edge in batting average once he gets some major league at-bats under his belt. Lux is the right kind of gamble based on his ADP (171) with home run upside if he does find his way to the top of the batting order. His starting point should be .290 with 75 runs, 15 home runs, 70 RBI, and ten steals.

Breakout: SP Julio Urias

The Dodgers have done their best to try and limit the innings of Urias early in his career. Over six seasons in the minors, he has a 15-8 record with a 2.76 ERA and 364 strikeouts over 310.1 innings.

He missed most of the 2018 season after his recovery left shoulder surgery that occurred in June of 2017. Last year Los Angeles pitched him for most of the season in the bullpen.

His strikeout rate (9.6) is an edge with a mid-level walk rate (3.1). Urias pitched better as a reliever (2.01 ERA and 48 Ks over 49.1 innings). In his eight starts, the Dodgers limited him to 30.1 innings with a 3.26 ERA and 37 strikeouts.

He had almost the same success against righties (.203) and lefties (.198).

His AFB (95.2) was the highest of his career while featuring three plus pitches (four-seam – .189, slider – .122 BAA, and changeup – .232 BAA).

Urias has a developing arm that gets a significant bump in the pitching rankings due to the shortened season. Wins could be an issue due to a quick hook. His ADP (140) is rising, but Urias should still outperform his draft value in 2020.

Breakout: SP Dustin May

May looks ready to rock and roll in the starting rotation for the Dodgers in 2020.

Over four seasons in the minors, he went 24-17 with a 3.50 ERA and 394 strikeouts over 403.2 innings.

May pushed his way from AA to the majors last year while not losing beat on the big stage. In LA, he threw strikes (walk rate – 1.3) while his strikeout rate (8.3) came in shorter than his minor league resume (8.8).

His AFB (96.0) is elite with more upside when he fills out. May relies on a cutter (.188 BAA) and a plus sinker (.247 BAA). His next step will come with more consistency with his curveball.

With 141.1 innings under his belt in 2019, he should have had no problem pushing toward 180 innings this season. May is almost a gift based on ADP (290). I expected a sub 3.50 ERA and 175 strikeouts with double-digit wins if the Dodgers played 162 games this year.

Value: C Will Smith

Last year Smith found his power stroke at AAA (.268 with 48 runs, 20 HRs, and 54 RBI over 224 at-bats). He baited fantasy owners into spending plenty of their free-agent budget after his late May call-up.

After six games (6-for-21 with two HRs and three RBI), the Dodgers shipped him back to AAA. Smith teased again in late June (1-for-5 with one HR and three RBI), but he landed on the injured list with an oblique issue.

In his third trip to the majors, Smith rewarded his believers with an excellent run over the next month (.339 with 17 runs, nine HRs, and 25 RBI over 62 at-bats). Unfortunately, he lacked follow-through over his final 82 at-bats (.183 with three HRs and 11 RBI).

Smith had risk against right-handed pitching (.211 with three HRs and seven RBI over 57 at-bats).

He has a high volume fly-ball swing path (53.7 percent with the Dodgers and 52.3 at AAA in 2019). His strikeout rate (26.5) in the majors needs work, but he did take walks (9.2 percent walk rate).

Over four seasons in the minor, Smith hit .243 with 55 home runs and 180 RBI over 1,034 at-bats.

He’s getting better while wanting to hit for power. His batting average will have risk due to a lot of easy outs via fly balls. A 30-plus HR swing with a full season of at-bats, but LA has a higher ranked catcher (Keibert Ruiz), only a phone call away.

With an ADP of 158, you can expect a top ten season at his position given his floor in home runs.

READ MORE: 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers Fantasy Team Preview

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Author: Shawn Childs

Facebook’s newest proof-of-concept VR headset looks like a pair of sunglasses

Image: Facebook

Facebook has shown off a new proof-of-concept virtual reality headset, and it has a completely different design than most other VR devices on the market today. Instead of a bulky contraption that covers up the top half of your face and has to be strapped to your head, this proof-of-concept headset looks kind of like a pair of large sunglasses that can sit comfortably on your ears.

Yet Facebook is billing this new device as not a pair of augmented reality glasses, as common conceptions of AR devices go, but a legitimate VR product. They’re very thin, with a display thickness of less than 9mm, and Facebook claims they have a field of view that’s “comparable to today’s consumer VR products.” Here’s a top-down view:


Continue reading…

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Author: Jay Peters