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 MurkowskiSinema touts bipartisan record as Arizona Democrats plan censure vote Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw McConnell lashes out at Democrats over 'unhinged' criticism of Kavanaugh 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) ManchinGOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan READ: Trump administration memo on background checks NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' MORE (W.Va.), the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s top Democrat, said Monday.
 
Manchin became the panel’s top Democrat last month, but Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellZuckerberg to meet with lawmakers to discuss 'future internet regulation' Will Congress act to stop robocalls? Native American advocates question 2020 Democrats' commitment MORE (D-Wash.) previously held that position, and was a leading negotiator on the package last year.
 
Opponents of the bill argued that it furthers an unsustainable pattern of the federal government owning too much land.
 
 
“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.”
 
The Senate vote sends the bill to the House for consideration. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Overnight Energy: House moves to block Trump drilling | House GOP rolls out proposal to counter offshore drilling ban | calls mount for NOAA probe House GOP rolls out energy proposal to counter Democrats offshore drilling ban MORE (R-Utah) had already agreed to the legislation in December, and have indicated that they still support it and would seek to pass it through the House.