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FY21 Spending, Pandemic and Energy Bill Enacted in Year End Deal
In late December, Congress finalized a massive spending, pandemic, and energy omnibus bill that was signed into law by President Trump on December 27. The bill included the final fiscal year 2021 appropriations bills providing annual funding for federal agencies and also included the first round of spending under the Great American Outdoors Act. While concerns had been raised about the Department of the Interior’s proposed spending plan under the Act, Congress ultimately referred back to its existing list of priority projects for much of the FY21 Land and Water Conservation Fund spending. Appropriators did incorporate the deferred maintenance backlog project recommendations submitted by DOI. In addition to the spending bills, the end of the year package also included energy, water, and climate related provisions.
“In a year that has been incredibly difficult for families and communities across America, conservation provides a place where we can find glimmers of hope and common ground,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This sweeping legislation addresses many issues that are top of mind for hunters and anglers, including investments in habitat and access. We can close out this year knowing we accomplished a lot for conservation and turn our eyes toward 2021 and the goals of investing in climate solutions and putting Americans back to work through conservation.”
The TRCP outlined a list of some of the key provisions within the more than 5,500 page bill:
- Invests $900 million in the Land and Water Conservation Fund, of this $67.5 million must be used to expand recreational access to public land.
- Infuses $1.9 billion into our nation’s public lands, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and national parks, critical new resources for addressing deferred maintenance projects.
- Increases communities’ ability to use nature-based solutions to meet their flood control needs.
- $7 million for states to manage chronic wasting disease.
- $2 million for chronic wasting disease work at the National Wildlife Research Center.
- $3.72 million to fund collaborative chronic wasting disease studies, including research to identify early detection tools and carcass disposal.
- Invests in the restoration of the Everglades, the Great Lakes, and the Chesapeake Bay.
- Allows conservation organizations to access WaterSMART grants, including for nature-based water solutions.
- Updates the Army Corps’ Floodplain Management Service program so that it can improve its ability to provide technical assistance that communities desperately need while also prioritizing assistance for economically disadvantaged communities and communities subject to repetitive flooding.
- Ensures consistency in cost-sharing requirements for natural infrastructure projects.
- Directs the Army Corps of Engineers to update guidance on sea level rise and inland flooding.
- Expands the Cooperative Watershed Management Program that allows communities to develop joint solutions to their water challenges.
- Establishes a new program to fund fish passage.
- Recognizes tribal water rights and funds projects that will provide access to clean, safe drinking water and other critical water supplies.
- Urges Natural Resources Conservation Service when converting wetlands to ensure that one acre of impact equals one acre of conserved land elsewhere.
- Requires Natural Resources Conservation Service to prioritize implementation of Drought Contingency Plans for Colorado River Basin.
- Directs Natural Resources Conservation Service to develop Environmental Quality Incentives Program guidance for local feedback on irrigation district-led projects.
- Strongly encourages the Farm Services Agency to prioritize State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program.
- Prohibits new oil and gas leases within ten miles of the Chaco Cultural National Historic Park in New Mexico for the next year.