Published since 1946
Senate Public Lands Bill Introduced in New Congress
Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) reintroduced a broad bipartisan public lands bill that did not see final action as the clock expired on the 115th Congress. The legislation, which includes reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund that expired in September as well as a number of other public lands-related bills from the previous Congress, saw a strong push for inclusion on a funding bill at the end of the last Congress but discussions broke down due to objections by a handful of members. Bill sponsors reintroduced S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act, in the 116th Congress and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell placed it onto the Senate Legislative Calendar on January 9, meaning that it can proceed directly to the floor for a vote without moving through the standard committee process.
“While we are disappointed that this package could not pass last year, we remain committed to its provisions and the spirit of our bicameral agreement,” Murkowski and Cantwell said in a statement. “The vast majority of bills in this package have been considered through the regular order process and have strong support from members of both parties. States and communities throughout the west, in particular, are counting on us to work together to pass them into law.”
However, even though House Natural Resource Committee leaders had reached agreement on a public lands bill, including reauthorizing LWCF, and had also worked to enact the package before the end of the last Congress, their plan for the package will likely be different given the change in leadership in the Committee. Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) who is now the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee has indicated that he is skeptical about the potential of passing a broad public lands bill. Instead, he intends to reintroduce the agreement he made with then-Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) to permanently reauthorize the LWCF and adjust the allocations to 40 percent for the federal side of the program, 40 percent for the state side of the program and 20 percent for other activities including deferred maintenance. Grijalva has indicated that he is also considering adding mandatory spending for LWCF, though Bishop has been opposed to guaranteeing funding for the program.