Senate votes to extend key funding mechanism for parks

The Senate voted Tuesday to indefinitely extend the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a key funding mechanism for national and local parks.
 
The bipartisan renewal of the LWCF, which expired in October when Congress couldn’t come to an agreement on an extension, is the main pillar of a wide-ranging public lands bill the Senate voted to pass on Tuesday, 92-8.
 
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The legislation is the first major public lands bill since 2014. In addition to the LWCF, it includes numerous national and locally tailored provisions related to federal land boundaries, recreation, sportsmen’s access to parks and more.
 
“This is a good bill we have in front of us,” Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRed dresses displayed around American Indian museum to memorialize missing, murdered native women Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration MORE (R-Alaska), chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said on the Senate floor Monday.
 
“I think it is important to remind folks that it is a lands package, it addresses many of the issues related to water, it is a sportsmen’s package, and it is truly a conservation package as we look to what we have included and incorporated as the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” she said.
 
The bill came after months of negotiations between the parties and between the House and Senate last year.
 
Many Republicans were uneasy about an indefinite authorization for the LWCF, which uses a portion of the money oil companies pay for offshore drilling and puts it toward national and state park and recreation initiatives. But most of the GOP ended up going along with the final bill.
 
“This bill is truly a great piece of legislation for our country. This package includes numerous important provisions that will enhance conservation, recreation, and hunting, fishing and shooting opportunities for sportsmen on federal lands,” Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinManchin says he won't support LGBTQ protection bill as written Senators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law Murkowski, Manchin call for 'responsible solutions' to climate change MORE (W.Va.), the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s top Democrat, said Monday.
 
 
Opponents of the bill argued that it furthers an unsustainable pattern of the federal government owning too much land.
 
“This bill perpetuates a terrible standard for federal land policy in the West and particularly for the state of Utah,” Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeStop asking parents to sacrifice Social Security benefits for paid family leave The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over New Zealand coverage GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers MORE (R-Utah), who voted against the bill, said Monday.
 
“The federal government owns more than 640 million acres of land. This is a staggering amount of real estate, an amount of land that in its totality is larger than the entireties of France, Spain, Germany, Poland, Italy, the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands, all of them combined,” he said.
 
Lee proposed an amendment that would have prevented presidents from unilaterally creating national monuments to protect land in Utah through the Antiquities Act. But in a bipartisan 60-33 vote, the Senate voted that down Tuesday.
 
Conservation groups cheered the Senate’s vote.
 
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been America’s most successful conservation program, providing money for parks, wildlife habitat, hiking trails and numerous other outdoor spaces in nearly every county in America,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation. “The Senate’s vote to permanently reauthorize the fund is an important, hard-fought and overdue victory for parks and wildlife habitat across America. We now look forward to quick approval in the House of Representatives.”