Contrary to what the hundreds of fundraising emails you receive tout, conservation is alive and well in the U.S. Congress this year. And, to underscore this point, conservation has broad bi-partisan support with many Republicans helping to lead the way.
Here’s what we’re working on, and we encourage you to get involved, too:
LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND
LWCF is a 50 year old program originally established to provide $900 million per year for programming and land acquisition. However, Congress has rarely approached the 50% funding level in its appropriations. The program is funded by offshore oil and gas royalties paid into the Treasury. A significant portion of the annual allocation is sent to the states to provide matching funds for local parks and recreation programs. Your neighborhood ball field, trail, or tennis courts may have been funded by LWCF!
The primary criticism of LWCF comes from the far right of our political spectrum where certain voices oppose any public lands and definitely oppose acquiring more public lands. Land acquisitions in recent years have focused on improving access and protecting threatened landscapes.
Here is where we are in the current Congress:
Introduced by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), this bill would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), as well as direct a very small amount of LWCF funding (1.5% or $10M annually) to opening up additional access to public lands for sportsmen and other recreational users.
Co-sponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Susan Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).
Introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), this bill not only would permanently reauthorize LWCF, but also provides for full, dedicated and permanent funding. This would stop LWCF’s funding from being siphoned off each year in the appropriations process for other, unknown and unaccountable purposes. In the 50-year history of LWCF, over $20 billion intended for LWCF has been lost to the General Treasury this way. Consistent, predictable funding at the level Congress deemed necessary in 1978 (not even indexed for inflation!) would finally fulfill LWCF’s true promise to the American people.
The bill has 43 co-sponsors including Senators Lamar Alexander and Susan Collins.
Introduced by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Pat Meehan (R-PA), like S. 896 this bill would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), as well as direct a very small amount of LWCF funding (1.5% or $10M annually) to opening up additional access to public lands for sportsmen and other recreational users.
The legislation has 226 co-sponsors including the following Republicans: Dave Reichert (WA), Ryan Costello (PA), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Elise Stefanik (NY), John Faso (NY), Peter King (NY), Jeff Fortenberry (NE), Chuck Fleischman (TN), Chris Smith (NJ), Patrick McHenry (NC), Lee Zeldin (NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Mark Sanford (SC), Thomas Garrett (VA), Leonard Lance (NJ), Carlos Curbelo (FL), David Rouzer (NC), Tim Murphy (PA), Brian Mast (FL), Tom MacArthur (NJ), Tom Cole (OK), Mike Turner (OH), Dan Donovan (NY), Charlie Dent (PA), Claudia Tenney (NY), Ted Poe (TX), Steve Stivers (OH), Chris Collins (NY), Pete Sessions (TX), Roger Marshall (KS), and Tom Reed (NY).
RECOVERING AMERICA’S WILDLIFE ACT
This bill takes the LWCF concept to public lands. Introduced by our good friend, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and his partner, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), the bill would be funded by royalties generated from increased oil and gas extraction on our federal public lands. All funds would be sent to the states for wildlife management use. One of the primary purposes of the bill is to provide states the resources to implement their wildlife management plans and to head off listing any species on the Endangered Species List. Listing sets off a chain of events and unintended consequences, often with harsh budgetary and economic outcomes for government, business, and citizens.
Co-sponsors are added daily. As of today, there are 57. Here are the Republicans: Tom Cole (OK), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Billy Long (MO), Scott Tipton (CO), David Rouzer (NC), French Hill (AR), Richard Hudson (NC), Glen Thompson (PA), Markwayne Mullin (OK), Tom Marino (PA), Elise Stefanik (NY), Chris Smith (NJ), Buddy Carter (GA), Austin Scott (GA), Ann Wagner (MO), Jeff Duncan (SC), Bruce Westerman (AR), Aumua Amata Radewagen (R-AS), Carlos Curbelo (FL), Roger Marshall (KS), Ryan Costello (PA), Jason Smith (MO), Steve Stivers (OH), Jack Bergman (MI), and Stephen Knight (CA).
NATIONAL PARK RESTORATION ACT
This legislation, with the backing of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, will provide mandatory funding for the high-priority deferred maintenance needs that support critical infrastructure and visitor services at our national parks. It also provides mandatory funding for the maintenance backlog on top of annual appropriations for operations and construction at the National Park Service. The fund would receive 50 percent of onshore and offshore revenues from energy production on federal lands over expected amounts that are not already allocated to other purposes. It protects payments to states, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Reclamation Fund, and all other existing uses of onshore and offshore revenues. These existing uses will receive all of their funding before the National Park Restoration Fund receives any funding. Bills have been introduced in both the Senate and House.
Sponsored by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and co-sponsored by Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Steve Daines (R-MT), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Roy Blunt (R-MO).
Sponsored by Reps. Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR). Co-sponsors include Reps. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), John Garamendi (D-CA), Will Hurd (R-TX), Rob Bishop (R-UT), Norma Torres (D-CA), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Dennis Ross (R-FL), and Paul Cook (R-CA).
Please take time to learn about these bills. Remember, we are only tenants on this land; we are borrowing it from our children.