Published since 1946
House Natural Resources Committee Passes LWCF Reauthorization
In a surprise move during a committee meeting on Thursday September 13, the House Natural Resources Committee passed compromise, bipartisan legislation that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The compromise hammered out by Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) was adopted as an amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 502, a bill introduced by Grijalva in January 2017 that currently has 235 co-sponsors. H.R. 502 permanently reauthorizes LWCF at $900 million and requires that no less that 1.5 percent of the annual authorized amount or $10 million, whichever is greater, is used for recreational public access. The amendment requires that 40 percent of LWCF funding is allocated for federal land acquisition, 40 percent is available for the stateside LWCF program, and increases the amount available for recreational public access to 3 percent or $20 million; in addition, the remaining funds will be available for other activities that could include land maintenance needs. Finally, the agreement provides parity for the District of Columbia and U.S. territories so that they will receive equivalent shares of stateside LWCF funding.
“Creating outdoor opportunities for people was the reason Congress created the LWCF. My reservations about the program have never been about the goals of LWCF, rather I’ve been frustrated that the implementation of the program fell short of the law’s intended purpose. Despite the statute’s successes and recognition of the benefit of using public land development to fund recreation and conservation investments, reform is needed to ensure LWCF benefits local priorities to the fullest extent possible,” said Rep. Bishop in a statement. “This bill, along with additional action we took today, ensures that Congress adequately funds the lands it already owns and realigns the Fund back to its original goal of ensuring that hunters, fishermen, and families have access to recreational activities. I thank Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva for his work to find common ground and look forward to engagement with all stakeholders and the Senate on a final agreement.”
In addition to the LWCF reauthorization legislation, the committee also passed H.R. 6771, the Domestic Offshore Energy Reinvestment Act sponsored by Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA) that amends the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA) to direct 50 percent of offshore drilling revenues produced in the Gulf to those states (currently GOMESA directs 37.5 percent). The bill also continues to provide an additional 12.5 percent of revenues to all states through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, on top of existing LWCF funding, and eliminates the cap on revenues that can be distributed to Gulf producing states and LWCF. In addition, the bill adds design and planning of ecosystem restoration, hurricane protection, or flood damage prevention as an authorized use and requires that not less than 25 percent of the revenues are dedicated to the planning, implementation and maintenance of these projects.
The third bill passed by the committee was Rep. Bishop’s Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act (H.R. 6510) that dedicates funding for the deferred maintenance backlog of the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education. The legislation would direct 50 percent of unallocated revenue from all sources of federal energy production (including onshore, offshore and renewable energy) up to $1.3 billion annually for maintenance projects. Existing payments to states and for GOMESA, LWCF, Reclamation Fund and other current uses are protected.
“This is a taste of what’s possible when people work together in good faith. Days like these are far too rare in Congress, and if we keep this up we might just restore public trust in Congress’ ability to get things done,” said Ranking Member Grijalva. “Thanks to a lot of hard work on both sides, the days of LWCF being a political football could end very soon and our national parks can start getting the maintenance funding they sorely need. I’d like to thank Chairman Bishop for the chance to work together on this. I hope we get to do it again.”
With the House Committee’s action there is now strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate for permanent reauthorization, however time is short as LWCF’s authorization is set to expire on September 30.