In the final days of the last Congress, diverse stakeholders and committee leaders and staff joined together in a collaborative effort to draft a strong public lands package with broad support. Unfortunately, in the last seconds of the 115th Congress, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) opposed moving the measure forward as part of an end-of-the-year deal.
With commitments from Congressional leaders to consider the public lands package as an early priority in the 116th Congress, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and former Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) kept their word and reintroduced the bipartisan bill (S. 47). This legislative package includes many provisions dedicated to enhancing public access and opportunities for hunting and fishing in addition to conserving treasured lands and waters important to hunters and anglers and critical for fish and wildlife.
The following descriptions provide a short breakdown of priority provisions supported by BHA in S.47. Review them carefully, then be sure to contact your representatives and urge them to support this important legislation. We've made it very easy for you to get in touch with them:
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Land and Water Conservation Fund
LWCF is a bipartisan program passed in 1964 by Congress to improve outdoor recreation, increase public access and conserve important public lands and waters. With almost $4 billion invested in federal, state and local projects, LWCF remains the most successful conservation program in U.S. history.
Unfortunately, Congress allowed LWCF’s authorization to expire on September 30, 2018 leaving the future of this program hanging in the balance. Under S. 47, LWCF will be permanently reauthorized and funding will be divided by allocating 40 percent to federal projects, 40 percent to state-level matching grants and programs like Forest Legacy and 20 percent for miscellaneous projects at the discretion of appropriators that could help address maintenance backlogs. The bill also requires three percent of funds be dedicated to securing access for hunters and anglers.
Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act
Frank Moore is a World War II veteran who served during the D-Day Allied invasion and stormed the beaches of Normandy. His wife, Jeanne Moore, is a native plant expert. Both have taken many hours of their lives to help maintain and restore rivers and streams throughout Oregon.
The Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act provision in S. 47 will permanently protect about 100,000 acres of public lands and waters in Douglas County, Oregon. Conserving the watershed will safeguard American’s with clean drinking water, enhance critical wildlife habitat, and maintain a robust local economy. Watch BHA’s film on this incredible landscape.
Methow Headwaters Protection Act
The Methow Headwaters Protection Act provision in S. 47 will prevent mineral withdrawal in the Methow Valley located in the North Cascades, Washington. This national treasure is a critical watershed for fish and wildlife, clean drinking water and the local outdoor recreation economy that generates $150 million annually in consumer spending. The watershed is an ecosystem that is home to cutthroat trout, mule deer and other iconic species.
California Desert Protection and Recreation Act
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Congressman Paul Cook (R-CA) worked together in finding a common-ground solution on advancing legislation that designates wilderness areas, special management areas and allows renewable energy development on public land. This provision is a prime example of bi-partisanship that involved all stakeholders in finding the desired balance between conservation, recreation and energy development. The process and making of this bill is a model for all future legislative work when dealing with the increasing conflicts between conservation and development in California.
Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program Act
The Partners for Fish and Wildlife program allows the Fish and Wildlife Service to provide technical and financial assistance to private landowners to restore, enhance, and manage private land to improve fish and wildlife habitats. Major goals have been identified by the FWS as core components for the Program: conserving habitat for the benefit of priority fish and wildlife species; broadening and strengthening partnerships; improving information sharing and communication; and, enhancing the Service workforce to with a focus on increased accountability and ensuring agency actions are efficient and effective.
Since 1987, the program has received more than $1 billion in federal dollars and leveraged over $1 billion for partner contributions. This is a 1 to 1 ratio investment. Reauthorizing the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program at current funding levels will benefit these collaborative efforts and help implement critical projects that restore grasslands, wetlands and other habitats important to our critters, including pheasant, canvasbacks, mule deer, and other game species.
S. 47 will reauthorize the program until fiscal year 2022.
Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act
In 2000, Congress approved the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) to help protect migratory birds, complementing the wetlands bird conservation efforts accomplished under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act while also supporting efforts to conserve birds throughout their migratory life cycles across North and South America. The NMBCA benefits most of the 368-bird species that breed in the continental United States or Canada and spend the winter in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, or South America. The NMBCA’s competitive grant program has helped benefit more than 3.7 million acres of habitat, promoting long-term conservation of neotropical migratory birds through partner-based conservation, supporting hundreds of public-private collaborations and energizing local, on-the-ground conservation efforts. S. 47 will reauthorize the program until fiscal year 2022.
Cerro Del Yuta and Rio San Antonio Wilderness Areas
In March 2013, at the request of New Mexico’s congressional delegation, President Barack Obama designated 242,555 acres in northern New Mexico as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. A provision in S. 47 will further enhance wildlife habitat along the northern edge of the monument by designating the 13,420-acre Cerro Del Yuta Wilderness and the 8,120-acre Rio San Antonio Wilderness. Both designations areas provide an important migratory corridor for elk, antelope, bighorn sheep and other game species while also enhancing the local outdoor economy that generates more than $173 million annually.