This month while the House of Representatives was in recess, the Senate was busy passing a major bipartisan infrastructure package as well as a budget resolution, which begins the budget reconciliation process. Both of these provide significant opportunities for conservation and public lands priorities to be passed into law in an expedited manner.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Package
On Aug. 10, the Senate passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Investment in Jobs Act (H.R. 3684) in a vote of 69-30. This legislation created $500 billion in new spending and was largely based off the Energy and Infrastructure Act (S. 2377) and the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act (S. 1931). The package included critical conservation priorities that advance BHA’s mission, including the following:
- Authorizing $11.29 billion for the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund
- Creating a new abandoned hardrock mine cleanup program to be authorized for $3 billion that will provide jobs in rural regions and restore water quality for fish, wildlife and local communities
- Funding the Forest Service Legacy Roads and Trail Remediation Program at $250 million, which will improve water quality and aquatic habitat while making Forest Service roads and trails more durable
- Creating a pilot program designed to reduce wildlife collisions on highways and roads while improving habitat connectivity for fish and wildlife based on sound science, to be funded at $350 million
This legislation will be taken up by the House of Representatives next and negotiated in tandem with the budget reconciliation process. BHA will continue to advocate for the provisions that benefit public lands and conservation priorities.
Read BHA’s press release here.
Budget Reconciliation Process
On Aug. 9, the Senate revealed their $3.5 trillion budget resolution, the beginning of a process that would require only 50 votes to pass avoiding the filibuster. The resolution gave instructions to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for $198 billion, including hardrock mining and Department of the Interior programs, among other priorities, and to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for $67 billion.
On Aug. 11, the first procedural vote passed on party lines, kicking off a process that will likely take weeks if not months to finish. That evening a “vote-a-rama” was held where senators could offer unlimited amendments that resulted in a 10-hour vote series. BHA staff closely monitored this as it played out.
This process could create a vehicle for including some of BHA’s most important policy priorities. Among those expected is a restoration of protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is currently threatened by a congressionally mandated oil and gas leasing program.
Take action here to encourage your lawmakers to use the budget reconciliation process to restore protections to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act
At the very end of last month the Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act (H.R. 4300) led by Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) passed the House of Representatives unanimously. In August, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and John Boozman (R-AR) introduced a Senate companion bill, S. 2580.
Once passed into law, the VIP Act will provide free annual America the Beautiful Passes to current military service members and free lifetime America the Beautiful Passes to veterans and members of Gold Star Families, allowing them access at no cost to over 2,000 federal recreation areas including national parks, national forests and national wildlife refuges.
Outdoor Legacy Fund
This month BHA President and CEO Land Tawney was quoted in a feature from Outside Magazine highlighting the need for and feasibility of an Outdoor Legacy Fund. This would provide new revenue for investing in our natural resources by expanding the base of consumers contributing to conservation funding beyond hunters and anglers. While outdoor gear manufacturers are already burdened with extremely high tariffs, it is clear we need to explore this conversation and do so thoughtfully with engagement from the outdoor recreation industry. Whether it is directing a percentage of existing tariffs into an Outdoor Legacy Fund or reducing tariffs and exploring new excise tax models based on the successful Pittman-Robertson Act and Dingell-Johnson Act that hunters and anglers fund within the Wildlife & Sportfish Restoration Program, there are innovative ideas to explore with decision-makers that bring all outdoor recreationists to the table to invest in our natural resources.
Response to anti-hunting petition
A petition was recently submitted to the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ban the import and export of wild mammals and birds. The petition also calls for the establishment of a tracking system to trace imports and exports of all wildlife and plants. These groups are using the argument of zoonotic disease prevention to disguise their end goal of undermining legal, science-based, and sustainable hunting programs.
BHA opposes this petition and has signed a letter led by the American Wildlife Conservation Partners in opposition.