Most senators sign letter backing conservation fund

Most senators sign letter backing conservation fund
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More than half the members of the U.S. Senate are urging chamber leadership to pass a bill reauthorizing a federal conservation program before it expires at the end of the month. 

Fifty-two senators, including 12 Republicans, signed a letter from Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSessions argued presidents can obstruct justice in Clinton impeachment trial Trump Jr. to meet with Senate panel amid Russia probe Trump’s Russian winter grows colder with Flynn plea deal MORE (R-N.C.) calling on Senate leadership to push a Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) bill this month. 

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The lawmakers said the Senate should consider passing even a temporary authorization for the program if a deal can’t immediately be reached on extending the program long-term. 

“We urge the inclusion of a short-term reauthorization of the LWCF in the coming days before the program expires on September 30, and seek your commitment to work with us to achieve permanent authorization and consistent funding of the LWCF in any legislation poised to become law this year,” the senators wrote in their letter, dated Thursday. 

“We must act quickly to renew this program, and we look forward to working with you toward that end.”

The LWCF, a $300 million federal program that pays for land acquisition and recreation projects on federal land, traditionally wins bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. But House Republicans are looking to reform the program this year before reauthorizing it. The fund’s charter expires on Sept. 30.

Democrats have warned the gambit risks the integrity of the program and say Congress should quickly pass a bill to keep it on the books. House Natural Resources Committee Democrats have a clock on their website counting down to when the program expires. 

Senators included a provision reauthorizing the LWCF in a bipartisan energy reform bill over the summer. But lawmakers won’t have enough time to pass the bill before the end of the month. 

In its place, Burr and the members on his letter said something else must be done to keep the program on the books. 

“Investments in LWCF support public land conservation and ensure access to the outdoors for all Americans, in rural communities and cities alike,” the group wrote. “Lasting authorization and consistent funding of the LWCF will help ensure that the Fund plays the strongest possible role in revitalizing local communities.”