This month the annual appropriations process was in full swing in the House of Representatives. Meanwhile both chambers were deep in discussions over infrastructure and transportation packages.
On July 28, after a previous failed vote, the Senate cleared the 60-vote threshold to begin formal discussions on a bipartisan infrastructure package that is expected to include important conservation priorities. Negotiations are expected to continue into August.
These funding bills include several increases supported by BHA, including to the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and National Wildlife Refuge System. Key programs receiving increased funding include the North American Wetlands Conservation Act for $50 million, sage grouse conservation for $80 million and Everglades restoration for $350 million. Additionally, the package contained language ending federal subsidies for clear-cut, old-growth logging in the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska.
Transportation and Infrastructure
On July 1, the House passed the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act (H.R. 3684). This legislation includes critical conservation priorities that advance BHA’s mission, including the following:
- $100 million annually for a wildlife-crossing program that would help reduce collisions and improve habitat connectivity for fish and wildlife based on the science and success of similar projects in other parts of the country
- The new Community Resilience and Restoration Fund and competitive grant program at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
- Directing the Government Accountability Office to assess wildlife ignitions, suppression and evacuation routes in studying the public safety impacts of the U.S. Forest Service’s deferred maintenance backlog
- Reauthorization of the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program through 2030
The Senate version, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act (S. 1931), also included language and allocations for the wildlife crossing program. The Senate bill would fund the wildlife crossing program at $350 million over five years and is expected to be part of a bipartisan infrastructure agreement in the Senate.
The Energy and Infrastructure Act (S. 2377) passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee. This legislation includes several key provisions that are BHA priorities and is expected to be part of a bipartisan infrastructure agreement in the Senate:
- Reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Fund for $11.29 billion for fiscal year 2022
- Establishment of the Legacy Road and Trail Remediation Program for a total of $1.25 billion over five years
- Sen. King’s (I-ME) Battery and Critical Mineral Recycling Act (S. 1918), which would incentivize the recycling of single use and rechargeable batteries to reduce the need for valuable mineral resources
- $3 billion for a new program to clean up abandoned hard-rock mines
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act
Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (S. 2372) on July 20. This landmark legislation would direct $1.3 billion to state fish and wildlife agencies and an additional $97.5 million to tribal fish and wildlife managers for management of at-risk species under science-based wildlife action plans, all while also supporting critical conservation work broadly, improving fish and wildlife habitat and bolstering the nation’s outdoor recreation economy. A House companion bill was introduced in April. The House version of the bill had a hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee on July 29.
Read BHA’s press release here.
Alaska Roadless Rule
The Biden administration announced on July 15 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will launch a rulemaking process this summer to consider restoring Roadless Rule protections for the Tongass National Forest removed by the previous administration, as well as an end to large-scale old-growth timber sales in the Tongass.
Read BHA’s press release here.
Legislation Before the House Natural Resources Committee
This month the committee held a hearing in the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands subcommittee as well as a markup in with the full committee. Both meetings included the discussion of bills that BHA has been tracking and supports.
During the subcommittee hearing testimony was heard on two bills supported by BHA: Rep. Kim Schrier’s (D-WA) Legacy Roads and Trails Act (H.R. 2816) and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act (H.R. 4300).
Multiple bills BHA supports were passed out of committee unanimously during the full committee markup: Rep. Blake Moore’s (R-UT) MAPLand Act (H.R. 3113), Rep. Ken Calvert’s (R-CA) Wildlife Refuge Conservation and Recreation for the Community Act (H.R. 972), and Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meek’s (R-IA) Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act (H.R. 4300)
For more about the Wildlife Refuge Conservation and Recreation for the Community Act read the California chapter’s blog here.
Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act
After a fast-moving process, being introduced July 1 and having a hearing and markup held within weeks, this bipartisan bill (H.R. 4300) led by Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) and Rep. Gallego (D-AZ) was passed by the House on July 29 with no votes in opposition. Once passed into law, it 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.
Tracy Stone-Manning Nomination
President Biden has nominated Tracy Stone-Manning to lead the Bureau of Land Management, which has not had a director in nearly five years. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a confirmation hearing on Stone-Manning’s nomination on July 22, and the full Senate is expected to vote in the coming weeks.
Forest Service Chief Appointed
In late June, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the appointment of Randy Moore as chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Moore began his career with the USDA in 1978. BHA’s California chapter has been working with him in the Pacific Southwest Region on habitat improvement projects.
Read BHA’s press release here.
Hunters and Anglers Unveil Vision for National Wildlife Refuges
Earlier this month a new report was released by 32 hunting- and fishing-related conservation organizations and businesses. It outlines 12 key tenets to guide the management of the National Wildlife Refuge System to benefit hunters and anglers as well as wildlife species.
Read the group press release here.