Senate advances conservation fund bill, House introduces companion

Senate advances conservation fund bill, House introduces companion
© Greg Nash

The Senate on Thursday moved to advance a bill that would permanently fund the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) while the House introduced a companion bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks Overnight Health Care: Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19 ahead of Trump's visit | US shows signs of coronavirus peak, but difficult days lie ahead | Trump: COVID-19 vaccine may be ready 'right around' Election Day MORE (R-Ky.) filed cloture on the Great American Outdoors Act, teeing up debate and moving it closer to a formal vote.

The bill would give $900 million annually to fund the LWCF, which uses oil and gas revenue to fund conservation programs like securing land for national parks. The legislation would separately address a maintenance backlog at national parks. 

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In the House, a bipartisan group of 12 lawmakers introduced companion legislation. The bill has broad support in the Senate, with 58 co-sponsors in addition to its original sponsor. 

Those 59 senators, however, could be one vote short of the number needed to avoid a filibuster or demands for amendments. 

The bill is also backed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE, who had previously proposed cutting the LWCF by about 97 percent, but later reversed that position. When he announced his reversal in March, Trump credited Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerThe US military has options against China McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill Group of GOP senators back more money for airlines to pay workers MORE (R-Colo.) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesThe Hill's Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux  OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs major conservation bill into law | Senate votes to confirm Energy's No. 2 official | Trump Jr. expresses opposition to Pebble Mine project California: Dual threats of wildfire and COVID-19 underscore need for prevention MORE (R-Mont.), both of whom are up for reelection and who face tough opposition. 

Conservationists were pleased by the cloture announcement. 

“Permanent and full funding for LWCF is the necessary next step to fulfill this program’s promise to the American people; to preserve nationally significant public lands and provide recreational opportunities in communities across the country,” said a statement from Phil Francis, the chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks.

“Addressing the crippling $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at our national parks is critical to the continued protection and preservation of our treasured natural and cultural resources,” Francis added.