Trump administration misses deadline on conservation projects, top Democrat says
The Trump administration has failed to meet a deadline to inform Congress about which projects should receive funding stemming from bipartisan conservation legislation that was signed into law earlier this year, a top Democratic lawmaker told The Hill.
The Great American Outdoors Act, enacted on Aug. 4, gave the Interior Department 90 days to prepare two lists of projects that would receive money under two separate conservation funds established by the legislation. Interior has failed to provide one of the lists, according to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.).
The deadline for submission was Monday.
E&E News first reported that the Interior Department missed the deadline.
The statute permanently provides $900 million in annual funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which helps the federal government acquire new land for parks and trails and works to protect sensitive forest and endangered species habitat.
It also provides up to $1.9 billion annually for five years dedicated to addressing a maintenance backlog at existing national parks.
President Trump’s support for funding the LWCF was something of a reversal after previously proposing significant cuts to the fund.
Though the Great American Outdoors Act was bipartisan, it was largely viewed as a win for vulnerable Republican Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Steve Daines (Mont.), who both represent states with vast amounts of public land.
The Interior Department met the deadline for the list of projects that would be prioritized for maintenance, but Grijalva said officials failed to submit a list of projects that would get funds through the LWCF.
“Congress sent clear instructions to the administration: transmit a detailed LWCF project list 90 days after enactment. This is a routine task the bureaus do every year, so the fact that it’s missing is somewhat perplexing and raises a lot of questions about this administration’s intent,” he said in a statement to The Hill.
Asked about the LWCF list, Interior spokesperson Ben Goldey said “the list was submitted to Congress by the deadline.” He provided The Hill with the maintenance backlog list, not the LWCF list.
Interior did not respond to follow-up questions.
Parks, monuments and other areas slated to receive maintenance funding under the new law include Grand Canyon National Park, the Golden Gate Recreation Area, D.C.’s National Mall, Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park and the Statue of Liberty.
In a letter to Grijalva accompanying the list, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said the National Park Service is “prioritizing and aligning investments with life-cycle management to make smart investments at the right time and to prevent the continued growth of deferred needs.”
“Such improvements, along with others the Department is making, will help ensure we deliver on the promise the President and Congress have made to the American people in drafting and enacting this important law,” he added.
However, Grijalva criticized what he viewed as a lack of detail in the deferred maintenance list.
“We asked for detailed projects lists and got a bunch of numbers,” he said. “The lack of transparency and accountability is ridiculous.”