National Policy Updates - July 2018 Backcountry Beat
Land and Water Conservation Fund and Maintenance Backlogs
We continue to push for permanent reauthorization and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund during committee hearings and by supporting Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY) attempt to offer amendments to moving legislation. We submitted testimony to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in response to a subcommittee hearing on legislation to address the National Parks Service maintenance backlog. Restore Our Parks Act, introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA), addresses the NPS maintenance backlog by creating a billion-dollar fund from undedicated oil and gas revenues.
In our testimony, BHA applauded the senators’ attention to the critical issue of deferred maintenance. We also encouraged them to amend the Restore Our Parks Act to include provisions permanently reauthorizing and dedicating funding to the LWCF and expanding the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund to all public land agencies, including the BLM, Forest Service and USFWS.
We’re pushing this narrative in the House as well. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and multiple Democratic colleagues are drafting similar bipartisan legislation and expanding the maintenance backlog fund to other public land agencies. While the legislation does not include permanent reauthorization of LWCF, it’s encouraging to have Rep. Bishop and other lawmakers listening to sportsmen's concerns on this important issue.
The House version of Restore Our Parks Act is expected to be introduced in the coming days. Please help us continue our efforts to permanently reauthorize and dedicate funding to the LWCF by urging lawmakers to support it.
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act
Sens. Jim Risch (R-ID) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, S. 3223, a bipartisan bill that authorizes $1.3 billion to provide state fish and wildlife agencies with resources to address conservation concerns with at-risk game and nongame species. This version complements the previously introduced H.R. 4647, which has 75 sponsors.
The House passed their Fiscal Year 2019 Interior-Environment and Financial Services appropriations bill with some wins and some losses. Our community teamed together to defeat two amendments that threaten hunting and fishing access opportunities on our public lands and waters.
The first amendment was introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ). His amendment would cut $1.4 million from the LWCF. Thanks to the great advocacy work from sportsmen and conservation organizations, the amendment lost with a 172-237 vote.
The second win occurred when Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) withdrew his amendment, which would have prohibited Sec. Zinke from making a science-based decision to withdraw mineral leases in the Superior National Forest. This national forest is home to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a world-class hunting and fishing destination.
While we celebrate our successes, the legislation does include some downfalls, such as a provision to repeal the Obama-era Clean Water Act “Waters of the United States” rule. Lawmakers have until Sept. 30 to pass appropriations bills or a continuing resolution.
NDAA: Bad Sage Grouse Rider Officially Dropped
House and Senate leadership and conferees finalized negotiations on the National Defense Authorization Act with all Endangered Species Act related riders removed, including the rider that would prohibit listing of the sage grouse for 10 years. We’ve fought to keep sage grouse and other bad conservation policies out of the NDAA for the past four fiscal years.
The House passed the measure overwhelmingly last week and senators are expected to consider it in the upcoming days.
Last year, we conducted a poll that indicated strong, bipartisan support for sage grouse conservation from voters who live in counties with sage grouse habitat. Voters opposed attempts by some lawmakers to include riders that harm sage grouse conservation efforts.