Congress Begins Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations Process (5/23/2018)
The House of Representatives Interior Appropriations Subcommittee has “marked up” the bill to fund the Interior Department agencies, U.S. Forest Service, and several other “related agencies” for Fiscal Year 2019. Most of the details of the funding being proposed are not yet available, but several have been released. These include appropriating $360 million from the Land & Water Conservation Fund for land acquisition by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. The specific projects this money would fund have not been disclosed. The amount proposed is $65 million less than Congress appropriated at the end of March for Fiscal Year 2018, but it is the largest amount proposed by the House for Land & Water Conservation Fund land acquisitions in years.
The House Interior Appropriations bill also proposes to increase by $50 million the funding for the National Park Service to operate the National Park System (including the National Trails System). The bill must be approved by the full Appropriations Committee and voted on by the House before this first half of the annual appropriations process is completed.
Two National Scenic and Historic Trail Bills Advance in Congress (4/25/2018)
Two bills making significant changes in two national trails have advanced in the House of Representatives. A hearing was recently held by the Public Lands Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee on HR 3045. HR 3045, sponsored by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN) and others, implements the recommendation of the National Park Service Feasibility Study to extend the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail from Wood River, IL up the Ohio River to Pittsburgh, PA. This extension of the trail would include preparations made by Lewis and Clark to gather the needed supplies and men for the expedition of the Corps of Discovery. If enacted by Congress, this extension would also bring Indiana into the National Trails System, the only state currently without a national scenic or historic trail.
Also recently, the House Natural Resources Committee held a markup session on HR 1026, the North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN), other members of the Minnesota delegation, and other representatives from the seven states through which the North Country National Scenic Trail passes, moves the trail in Minnesota to the Superior Hiking Trail and the Kekekabic and Border Route Trails from the current authorized route through nearly 100 miles of various black spruce and tamarack bogs. The bill also extends the trail eastward from Lake Champlain into Vermont to connect with the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail. The House Natural Resources Committee recommended HR 1026 for passage by the House of Representatives. The North Country Trail Association has been working through several iterations for 10 years to get Congress to make these beneficial changes in the route of the North Country National Scenic Trail.
PNTS Statement on the $1.3 Trillion Omnibus FY 2018 Appropriations Bill (3/30/2018)
The Partnership for the National Trails System thanks Congress for finally appropriating the money to fund Federal agencies—including our partners in the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S Forest Service, and the Federal Highway Administration—through the end of Federal Fiscal Year 2018 (September 30th). Within the $1.3 Trillion Omnibus FY 2018 Appropriations Bill, Congress has appropriated $425 million for acquisition of critical lands for conservation and recreation through the Land & Water Conservation Fund—a modest increase over the funding provided for FY 2017. This funding includes $18.359 million to buy land along three of the national historic trails and four of the national scenic trails.
Congress appropriated $2,298,397,000 for the National Park Service to operate the National Park System, including 23 of the national scenic and historic trails. This is an increase of $54.046 million over the funding provided for 2017.
In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System this year Congress, provided this direction: “National Trails System—In preparation for the National Trails System’s 50-year anniversary in 2018, the Committees urge the [Park] Service to make funding the construction and maintenance of national trails a priority.” It remains to be seen how the National Park Service will carry out this guidance.
Congress also appropriated $80 million for the U.S. Forest Service to build and maintain the 158,000 miles of trails on the national forests, including the five national scenic trails and one national historic trail that it administers and sections of 17 other national trails within national forests. The funding provided for 2018 is $2.47 million more than Congress provided to the Forest Service for the trails in 2017 and is the first increase in trail funding in three or more years.
Additionally in the Omnibus FY 2018 Appropriations Bill, Congress has also permanently reauthorized the Federal Lands Transfer Facilitation Act (FLTFA), authorizing the Bureau of Land Management to sell surplus Federal land and use the money gained from these sales to buy land for conservation and recreation purposes.
Congress also finally passed a comprehensive Wildfire Suppression funding program that should enable the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to pay the increasingly greater costs of suppressing wildfires and eliminate the need to “borrow” funds from other programs to do so.
We applaud Congress for finally resolving these several long-standing issues, but we are disappointed that Congress did not re-authorize the Land & Water Conservation Fund, which expires on September 30, 2018.
Congress Works to Finish 2018 Funding, Trump Proposes Drastic Funding Cuts for 2019 (2/28/2018)
While Congress works to complete the Appropriations Bill to fund the Federal government for the second half of Fiscal Year 2018, the Trump Administration released its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019 on February 12. As it did last year, this budget proposes to drastically cut funding for trails and the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
Once again, the Administration proposes to slash by $65 million the one account that funds work on the 158,000 miles of trails in the national forests, including the National Scenic and Historic Trails. The budget proposes to provide only $12 million for the U.S. Forest Service to use to maintain and upgrade all these miles of trail.
Similarly, but less drastically, the proposed FY 2019 budget proposes to cut $1.256 million from the $13.192 million projected to be provided for FY 2018 for the 23 National Scenic and Historic Trails administered by the National Park Service. This cut of 9.5% will significantly reduce the money available to continue existing and initiate new important programs, projects, and activities along the Park Service’s National Trails.
Since the budget for the Bureau of Land Management does not have any account specifically funding trails, it is, as usual, a mystery how the National Scenic and Historic Trails administered and managed by the Bureau will fare. However, proposed cuts of $16.5 million in the funding for national monuments and wilderness areas (the two components of the National Conservation Lands System with specific funding accounts) suggest that funding for the trails will be reduced, also.
The most drastic cuts have been proposed for the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The FY 2019 budget provides no funding for the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service to purchase lands for conservation and recreation. The budget further cripples Federal land acquisition by proposing to rescind $42 million of already appropriated but unspent LWCF money from all four of these agencies.
All of these funding cuts are rather puzzling and ironic considering how Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and other Administration leaders have emphasized the need to provide more access to public lands for hunting, fishing, and other forms of recreation. Increased access is not accomplished by cutting the funding for the trails and land acquisition that are the ways to enter and travel our public lands.
For 2018, Congress ignored similarly drastic funding cuts for trails and the LWCF proposed by the Administration and is working from levels of funding provided for FY 2017 in preparing the FY 2018 Appropriations Bill. It is likely that Congress will ignore the proposed drastic cuts for FY 2019 too, but it is essential that constituents remind their senators and representatives how important robust funding for our public lands, trails, and the Land & Water Conservation Fund is to our quality of life and our natural and cultural heritage as Americans.
Congress Punts 2018 Appropriations Once Again, Again (1/31/2018)
After a three-day partial shutdown of most government agencies earlier in January, Congress has once again passed a continuing resolution to fund the agencies rather than completing the appropriations to fund their operations for the rest of Fiscal Year 2018. This continuing resolution funds the government agencies at Fiscal Year 2017 levels through Thursday, February 8. This practice of delaying completing this necessary legislation in a timely way each year seems to have become the “new normal” for Congress. Watch for Congress to repeat the process in February with another short term continuing resolution. The punts are getting shorter — covering less ground.
Congress Punts 2018 Appropriations Once Again (12/27/2017)
Rather than completing the appropriations to fund the operations of the federal government for the rest of Fiscal Year 2018, Congress has once again passed a continuing resolution to fund the agencies through January 19, 2018. While this continuing resolution allows the agencies to continue spending at the level appropriated by Congress for Fiscal Year 2017, it prevents them from entering into year-long agreements with nonprofit organizations and other entities to fund collaborative work. Until about five years ago, Congress regularly completed the 12 annual appropriations bills to fund the various government agencies before the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1st each year. The new practice of delaying completing this necessary legislation in a timely way each year seems to have become the “new normal” for Congress. Watch for Congress to repeat the process in January with another short term continuing resolution.
LWCF Reauthorization Bill Sponsored by Majority of Representatives (12/27/2017)
The bipartisan bill — HR 502 — to permanently reauthorize the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is now co-sponsored by 218 members of the House of Representatives. This is just over one-half of the members of the House and marks a new “high” in demonstrated support for this essential conservation program in Congress. The LWCF is authorized by Congress through September 30, 2018 and must be reauthorized before then to keep enabling the federal land managing agencies to purchase inholdings in national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, and national trails as they become available from willing sellers. The LWCF is funded through payments for leases to drill for oil and gas in the outer continental shelf of the United States.
Senate Interior Appropriations Bill Provides $400 Million for LWCF (11/30/2017)
A few days before Thanksgiving, the Senate Appropriations Committee released its version of the Interior Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2018. The bill includes $400 million from the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – the same amount as Congress appropriated for 2017 – for the Federal land managing agencies to buy critical conservation land from willing sellers. The Senate bill provides $125 million more for LWCF acquisitions than the bill passed by the House of Representatives. The $400 million in the Senate bill includes $19,359,000 to acquire land along the Appalachian, Continental Divide, North Country, Pacific Crest, Captain John Smith Chesapeake, Lewis & Clark, Oregon, California, and Overmountain Victory National Trails.
The Senate Interior Appropriations Bill also proposes to provide $81,553,000 for the U.S. Forest Service to build and maintain trails in the national forests. This amount is about $4 million more than Congress appropriated for Forest Service trails for 2017 and the House has included in its 2018 Interior Bill.
Before Congress can complete resolving differences between the House and Senate versions of the Interior and other appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2018, it must pass a resolution to continue funding for the federal agencies beyond December 8th when the current authorized funding runs out.
National Scenic Trails Parity Act Introduced in Senate (10/30/2017)
On October 26th, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and nine of her colleagues reintroduced the National Scenic Trails Parity Act – S. 2015. This bill provides the same level of recognition and support for the Ice Age, New England, and North Country National Scenic Trails as the Appalachian, Potomac Heritage, and Natchez Trace National Scenic Trails have received for decades as Units of the National Park System. All six of these national scenic trails are administered by the National Park Service.
Without the parity provided by the new legislation the three affected trails authorized decades ago by Congress will continue to not receive the full range of support and recognition provided by the Park Service for the units of the National Park System. Beyond recognition on National Park System maps and in National Park Service publications, the Parity Act will make the three trails eligible for maintenance and other funding just as the other three Park Service administered trails have been for decades.
The bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
A companion version of the National Scenic Trails Parity Act – HR 1424 – was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI-5), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI-4), Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI-6), Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI-3), and Rep. Richard M. Nolan (D-MN-8).
House Passes FY 2018 Interior Appropriations Bill – Funding for LWCF and National Trails (9/26/2017)
In mid-September, after returning to Washington, D.C. from their August Recess, the members of the House of Representatives passed legislation to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2018, including the Interior Appropriations bill. The House Interior bill provides $275 million from the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for land acquisition projects by the four federal land managing agencies. This amount is $125 million less than Congress appropriated for LWCF for the current fiscal year, but considerably more than the Administration requested in its FY 2018 Budget.
The House Interior Appropriations bill also provides the same level of funding for administration and management by the National Park Service of 23 national scenic and historic trails as was appropriated for FY 2017: $12.3 million. Funding for the national trails administered and managed by the Bureau of Land Management is set at $5.95 million, about $400,000 less than Congress provided for FY 2017. Similarly, the House bill provides $75.553 million for Trail Maintenance and Construction for the U.S. Forest Service, $1.977 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $62,853,000 above the Administration’s FY 2018 budget request.
The Senate has not yet acted on its version of the FY 2018 Interior Appropriations Bill.
Interior Secretary Zinke Recommends Reducing Size of Several National Monuments (9/26/2017)
In an early September memo to the President, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended reducing the size of several National Monuments designated since 1996 and revising the types of activities to be permitted in them and other Monuments. Secretary Zinke has recommended reducing the area protected by these National Monuments by an unspecified amount of land: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, Gold Butte in Nevada, and Cascade-Siskiyou in Oregon.
Asserting that “traditional uses of the land such as grazing, timber production, mining, fishing, hunting, recreation, and other cultural uses are unnecessarily restricted” on these and other National Monuments, Secretary Zinke recommends revising the Proclamations of these Monuments to allow these “traditional uses” so as to benefit the local communities near them. For the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine, restoration of timber production is recommended.
More than 2.8 million comments were submitted by the public during the recent review period with over 90 percent of them supporting no change in the status or size of any of the 27 National Monuments being reviewed. It is not known what the President plans to do with Interior Secretary Zinke’s recommendations for the National Monuments.
Interior Secretary Zinke’s Report of National Monuments (8/30/2017)
On August 24th, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke sent a report to the President of the 120-day public review of an assessment of 27 National Monuments designated since 1996, all but one of which encompass more than 100,000 acres. The assessment was ordered by President Trump in late April. More than 2.8 million comments were submitted by the public with over 90% of them supporting no change in the status or size of any of the 27 National Monuments.
In his report, Secretary Zinke recommended that President Trump redraw the boundaries of a “handful” of national monuments but did not recommend the elimination of any sites. Secretary Zinke stated, “The recommendations I sent to the president on national monuments will maintain federal ownership of all federal land and protect the land under federal environmental regulations, and also provide a much needed change for the local communities who border and rely on these lands for hunting and fishing, economic development, traditional uses, and recreation.”
Secretary Zinke had previously dismissed reviews of six monuments without recommending any alternations to boundaries or management plans: the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho, Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington state, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado, Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument in Arizona, and Sand to Snow National Monument in California.
Proposed LWCF Appropriations in 2018 Bill (8/29/2017)
The House Appropriations Committee is recommending appropriating $275 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to be used for acquiring land for conservation and recreation for Fiscal Year 2018. This is $125 million less than Congress appropriated for Fiscal Year 2017. During the Committee’s markup of the 2018 Bill, Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen and Interior Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert both stated that they are willing to seek greater funding for LWCF in deliberations with the Senate later in the appropriations process. The House and Senate are expected to work toward passing the 2018 Appropriations bills in September after Labor Day.
Included in the recommended $275 million for the LWCF is funding for land acquisitions along or adjacent to these National Trails:
Bureau of Land Management
- Mojave Trails National Monument CA – Old Spanish NHT: $1.4M
- North Platte River Special Recreation Management Area WY – Oregon NHT: $1.3M
US Fish & Wildlife Service
- Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge PA – Appalachian NST: $500,000
National Park Service
- Appalachian NST – NY: $2M
- North Country NST – MI: $3.472M
US Forest Service
- Trinity Divide CA – Pacific Crest NST: $5M
If Congress appropriates $400 million for LWCF projects as it did for Fiscal Year 2017 then projects along the Continental Divide NST and Overmountain Victory NHT could be funded.
2018 Interior Appropriations Bill (7/31/2017)
In mid-July the House Appropriations Committee prepared the Interior Appropriations bill to fund the Department of Interior agencies, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the Environmental Protection Agency for Fiscal Year 2018. Rejecting many of the drastic funding cuts proposed by the Trump Administration, the Committee proposes maintaining funding for the National Park Service (NPS), USFS, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) trails programs either at or slightly less than the funding Congress provided for 2017. The funding for the NPS to administer 23 of the National Scenic and Historic Trails and to run the Volunteers-in-Parks and Challenge Cost Share Programs is continued at the 2017 level while $75,553,000 is recommended for the USFS to maintain 155,000 miles of trails (including administering 6 National Scenic and Historic Trails) in the national forests. This is a reduction of $1,977,000 from the funding provided for 2017, but much greater than the $12. 7 million proposed by the administration. Similarly, $35.8 million is recommended for the BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System, a reduction of $1 million from 2017.
In rejecting the Administration’s proposal to eliminate funding for federal land acquisition, the House Appropriations Committee recommends providing $275 million from the Land & Water Conservation Fund to fund conservation land acquisition by the NPS, USFS, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and BLM and acquisition of easements through the Forest Legacy Program. This funding level, $125 million less than the amount provided for 2017, includes money to acquire land along several of the National Scenic and Historic Trails.
Drastic Cuts Proposed for National Scenic and Historic Trail Funding (6/30/2017)
The National Scenic and Historic Trails administered and managed by the U.S Forest Service are funded from the agency’s Trails Account (CMTL). For FY 2017 Congress appropriated $77.383 million for that account. The proposed Trump Budget for FY 2018 provides just $12.7 million for the Forest Service to maintain over 155,000 miles of trails—a reduction of 84%! If the Forest Service allocates a proportionate amount of funds for the National Trails at this funding level only $1.268 million will be available for them.
Read our testimony here.
FY18 Proposed LWCF Budget Cuts (5/31/2017)
The President’s FY18 Budget Proposal, released on May 23rd, completely eviscerates the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). These drastic and dire funding cuts come across all programs, not just the federal side. Overall, the Administration’s budget would gut LWCF by 84%, and up to 89% for some agencies. Furthermore, certain components like the Forest Legacy Program would be zeroed out entirely.
Though the numbers vary, except for the American Battlefield Protection Program (state and local grants for battlefield protection, not National Battlefields like Gettysburg, Fredericksburg-Spotslyvania, etc.) these funding levels cover administrative costs only—NO projects, NO grants to states. There are also NO recreation access line items in any of the proposed agency budgets.
The breakout for LWCF funding is as follows:
- Bureau of Land Management: $3.6M, 89% cut to enacted level
- US Fish & Wildlife Service: $17.051M, 66% cut to enacted level
- National Park Service: $14.8M, 65% cut to enacted level
- US Forest Service: $7.0M, 88% cut to enacted level
- OVS: $10.0M, 9% cut to enacted level
STATE AND LOCAL GRANTS
- CESCF (Sec. 6): $0 for the land acquisition accounts, 100% cut to enacted level
- Highlands: $0, 100% cut to enacted level
- Stateside: $3.043M in NPS appropriations, 97% cut to enacted level
$90M in mandatory funding* (see note below)—this would be an 18% cut to enacted level
- American Battlefield Protection Program: $8.481M, 15% cut to enacted level
- Forest Legacy Program: $0, 100% cut to enacted level
Total LWCF: $64 million, 84% cut to enacted level
The Trump Administration’s proposed FY18 Budget also substantially cuts funding for America’s 30 National Scenic and Historic Trails as shown here:
AGENCY FY17 FUNDING PROPOSED FY18 DECREASE
- National Park Service: $12.913 million $12.150 million – $897,000
- Bureau of Land Management: $6.358 million $5.95 million – $406,000
- U.S. Forest Service: $7.925 million ??**
*There is a change to the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA), which was to provide the LWCF State and Local Assistance Program (LWCF stateside grants) with mandatory funding beginning this year. In the President’s Budget proposal released today, GOMESA’s allocations to the states are repealed but replaced with mandatory funding for LWCF stateside at the level of $90M for FY18, rising to $125M in FY22 and continuing at that level thereafter. Even though appropriations for stateside are cut to practically nothing, these grants receive funding through a separate mechanism.
** = The National Scenic and Historic Trails administered and managed by the U.S Forest Service are funded from the agency’s Trails Account (CMTL). For FY 2017 Congress appropriated $77.383 million for that account. The proposed Trump Budget for FY 2018 provides just $12.7 million for the Forest Service to maintain over 155,000 miles of trails—a reduction of 84%! If the Forest Service allocates a proportionate amount of funds for the National Trails at this funding level only $1.268 million will be available for them.
LWCF Legislation in the 115th Congress (4/29/2017)
The Fiscal Year 2018 “skinny budget” released by the Trump Administration this spring implies the intention to drastically decrease funding of the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) compared to the $450 million Congress appropriated for Fiscal Year 2016. It also implies the intent to cut the overall budgets of the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and US Fish & Wildlife Service from 12 to 25 percent.
Three bills—H.R. 502, S. 569, and S. 896—have been introduced to permanently re-authorize the Land & Water Conservation Fund. While these bills are receiving bi-partisan support with many members of Congress co-sponsoring them, more co-sponsors are needed to demonstrate the overwhelming support for and value of the Land & Water Conservation Fund.
An Executive Update on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (3/29/2017)
The Fiscal Year 2018 “skinny budget” recently released by the Trump Administration implies the intention to drastically decrease funding of the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) below the $450 million Congress appropriated for Fiscal Year 2016.
Meanwhile, support for the Land & Water Conservation Fund continues to increase in Congress with 205 Members of the House of Representatives—the most ever—signing a “Dear Colleague” letter to the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman requesting strong funding for the Fund for Fiscal Year 2018. A similar letter supporting LWCF funding for the National Trails System (NTS) was signed by 68 Members of the House. Both letters are bipartisan and the Representatives who signed them deserve our thanks for their consistent support for the Land & Water Conservation Fund.
A Year End Congressional Update (12/29/2016)
The 114th Congress adjourned in early December after passing another Continuing Resolution to fund the Federal government agencies at the Fiscal Year 2016 levels until April 28, 2017. The appropriations for Fiscal Year 2017 are to be completed by the 115th Congress sometime next Spring. The 114th Congress left this important work for the National Trails System unfinished:
- Re-authorization of the Land & Water Conservation Fund
- Re-authorization of the Historic Preservation Fund
- Re-authorization of the Federal Land Transfer Facilitation Act to authorize the Bureau of Land Management to sell surplus land and use the proceeds to buy lands to fill in management blocks in the several checkerboards of public/private land in the west
- A method for funding wildfire suppression costs that will relieve the annual operating budget of the Forest Service from bearing the majority of these costs
- Authorization of the several adjustments to the route of the North Country National Scenic Trail in Minnesota and extending into Vermont.
The Partnership for the National Trails System will work with many allies to get bills introduced in the 115th Congress to accomplish these important actions.
A Congressional Update on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (9/29/2016)
Work continues to convince Congress to permanently re-authorize the Land & Water Conservation Fund via several pieces of legislation under consideration. Two bills in the House of Representatives – HR 1814 sponsored by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) has 210 sponsors and HR 4151 sponsored by Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID) as an all Republican bill has 13 sponsors – would make the LWCF a permanent program as it now operates. Senate and House members of the conference committee are working to reconcile the energy bills passed by both houses of Congress and are also working to include re-authorization of the LWCF in the final bill. The Senate version of the Energy Bill – S. 2012 – includes the same language that Congressman Simpson used for HR 4151.
There is still hope that one or several of these bills will be adopted by Congress during its post election “Lame Duck” session. Supporters of the Land & Water Conservation Fund should continue to express that support.
A Congressional Update on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (6/29/2016)
Congress is currently working on legislation to fund land protection projects with Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) money for Fiscal Year 2017 and on legislation that could permanently reauthorize this landmark land conservation program. The House and Senate have each written their FY 2017 Interior Appropriations bills to fund the work of the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency and a number of other federal agencies and programs. The House proposes to spend $322 million for LWCF projects, while the Senate proposes to spend $400 million. These amounts are significant decreases from the $450 million Congress has provided for LWCF projects for FY 2016 and are less than half of the $900 million requested by the President. At the proposed level of funding only a handful of National Trails System land acquisition projects would be funded.
The Senate and House Energy and Natural Resources Committees are also in discussions to reconcile their two versions of the Energy Policy Modernization Act. The version passed by the Senate includes permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as reauthorization of the Federal Land Transfer Facilitation Act (FLTFA) to enable the Bureau of Land Management to sell surplus land and use the money obtained to buy conservation lands, and the North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act to relocate the Trail in Minnesota and extend it eastward to connect with the Long and Appalachian Trails in Vermont. If the Conference Committee can produce a bill reconciling the differences between the two versions that bill will go back to each House to be approved. With the longer than normal summer Congressional Recess rapidly approaching it is likely final decisions on these important bills will not be made in each House until fall.
The Senate Passes Energy Policy Modernization Act (4/20/2016)
The United States Senate has passed S. 2012 85-12, which includes permanent reauthorization of the Land & Water Conservation Fund. Specific details, provided by the Land & Water Conservation Fund Coalition, can be found below:
The Senate just voted for final passage of S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act—which contains permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund as part of a bipartisan compromise provision negotiated by Chairman Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell.
This is an historic victory for LWCF, the first time permanent authorization has passed the full Senate. Before passing the bill, the Senate voted last night on several amendments including the anti-LWCF Lankford amendment, which was decisively defeated by a vote of 63-34.
Obama’s New Budget Proposal Includes Full Funding for the LWCF (2/4/2016)
The Partnership for the National Trails System applauds President Obama’s continued commitment to fully funding the Land & Water Conservation Fund as reflected by the Federal land preservation projects announced in the FY 2017 Budget. Projects included along some of America’s 30 National Scenic and Historic Trails will provide increased access for healthful outdoor recreation for millions of people while helping to preserve critical wildlife habitat, sensitive historical and cultural sites, and the integrity of ecosystems and watersheds. The National Trails link together many of Americans favorite national parks, wildlife refuges and Wilderness Areas and many major cities, as well.
Debates Begin on Energy Policy Modernization Act (EMPA) (1/27/2016)
This week, the Senate has begun to debate the Energy Policy Modernization Act (EPMA), which passed through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in July of last year. This package includes the bipartisan compromise reached by Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to permanently reauthorize LWCF while making modest reforms to the program. The Murkowski-Cantwell LWCF proposal has passed through the Committee twice by a wide bipartisan margin. This agreement is a major improvement on the three-year reauthorization of the LWCF included in the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed in December.
Already, this important agreement is being attacked. Senators Lee, (R-UT), Barasso, (R -WY), and several others have introduced amendments to remove or substantially change the LWCF agreement in this bill.
Please contact your Senators and ask them to oppose any amendments that strike or weaken the Murkowski-Cantwell agreement on LWCF included in the EPMA. Talking points are as follows:
The Murkowski-Cantwell agreement contained in EPMA would permanently reauthorize LWCF and make the following changes to the program
- A 40%-40%-20% split of LWCF funding between federal purposes (i.e. federal agency projects through NPS, BLM, USFS and USFWS), state purposes (grants through the NPS State and Local Assistance Program, the Forest Legacy Program, the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Program/Section 6, and the American Battlefield Protection Program), and flexible funding, all subject to appropriator discretion. This closely mirrors the distribution of LWCF appropriations in recent years, including the overall distribution in the FY16 omnibus.
- Agencies must take into account the following factors when choosing projects: management efficiencies, management cost savings, geographic distribution, significance of the acquisition, urgency of the acquisition, threats to the integrity of the land to be acquired, and the recreational value of the land. These are similar to existing agency criteria, and would codify current practice.
- Codification of the 1.5% sportsmen’s access provision that has been included in all proposed LWCF legislation for the last several years, endorsed by the LWCF Coalition.
- Where feasible and appropriate, agencies should consider the use of conservation easements.
The agreement also creates a new National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund that is over and above LWCF—NOT taking authorized dollars away from LWCF—from Outer Continental Shelf energy revenues.
This agreement therefore addresses critical needs for our public lands on two fronts:
- Improving existing facilities and resources
- Protecting the integrity of those parks from incompatible development
Unlike various other proposals, this agreement addresses questions about reforming LWCF without causing major damage to the program’s core conservation mission or the diversity and flexibility of tools available to communities.
LWCF Reauthorized in FY Omnibus Appropriations Bill (12/16/2015)
Thanks to great work by a group of persistent Republican and Democrat Senators and Representatives the Omnibus FY 2016 Appropriations Bill prepared for approval by Congress reauthorizes the Land Water Conservation Fund until September 30, 2018 with the current authorities and potential funding of $900 million annually. While those of us who have worked for years to secure permanent reauthorization of LWCF and guaranteed annual full funding of it are disappointed that Congress will extend it only for three years now, we will have a good start on working with Congressional champions to achieve permanent reauthorization over the next several years.
Congress is scheduled to vote on the Omnibus FY 2016 Appropriations Bill in the next several days.
Many thanks to all of you who contacted your members of Congress time and again urging them to reauthorize LWCF. Please thank them for including this reauthorization in the FY 2016 Appropriations Bill.
Please also thank the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for allocating $450 million for LWCF land acquisition projects for 2016. This funding is $143 million more than Congress has appropriated in each of the past two fiscal years.
Take Action (Updated 12/11/2015)
Congress is still negotiating the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill and has set a new deadline of next Wednesday, December 16th to have the bill ready to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. They will continue negotiating over this weekend. Thanks to all of your good work and that of other advocates across the nation reauthorization of the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is still under consideration to be included in the bill.
We need you to remind the Representatives and Senators you have already contacted and any you have not that LWCF must be reauthorized now — it does not need to be “fixed” or “reformed” — delaying action will, among the various detriments, threaten or deny our ability and our federal agency partners ability to close gaps and protect critical resources along the national scenic and historic trails.
ACT TODAY to remind Congress how vital the LWCF is for our trails and all the other public lands that preserve our natural, historic, and cultural heritage as Americans and provide outdoor recreation so beneficial to our health and the economies of countless communities across the Nation.
LWCF Talking Points – (Source: Land & Water Conservation Fund Coalition)
- Congress continues to debate a broad spending and tax package that will be completed in the coming days, and the future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund – including permanent reauthorization and funding – is part of those negotiations!
- Clearly leaders in Congress are starting to hear the LWCF message, but with multiple issues and needs to be addressed in these final days, LWCF supporters in Congress must continue to speak up for LWCF so that it does not get left on the cutting room floor.
- Congress just gave itself a 5 day extension to December 16 to finish its work. Final negotiations are underway now – and LWCF MUST be included in that final legislation!
- LWCF’s authorization should never have lapsed on October 1st of this year, and Congress must take this opportunity to rectify that and protect America’s most important conservation program
- LWCF is one of the most popular, bipartisan programs in Congress and should be renewed without delay
- Ask for Members of Congress: Please reiterate/urge leadership that permanent reauthorization and funding of LWCF is a top priority for you and that it must be a part of the final spending package that will be voted on in Congress in the coming days
LWCF works for American jobs and has broad bipartisan support
- The outdoor recreation industry, governors, mayors, sportsmen, small business owners, conservation leaders, landowners, ranchers, farmers, and millions and millions of Americans are united in the push for permanent reauthorization and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund because it works. LWCF helps to keep the $646 billion recreation economy alive and serves to protect our National Parks and other public lands from being destroyed.
- LWCF is universally popular and enjoys bipartisan support in Congress as it did from its origins when first envisioned by Eisenhower, advanced by JFK, and signed into law by LBJ. Given the chance, majorities in both the House and the Senate would vote today to reauthorize LWCF. And yet, inexplicably, Congress has allowed the lights to go out on LWCF for the first time in half a century. SUPPORT AMERICAS BEST PARKS PROGRAM – IT PAYS FOR ITSELF AND SUPPORTS JOBS!
Why LWCF must be permanently funded and reauthorized now
- LWCF’s authorization should never have lapsed in the first place, and Congress has an opportunity in these budget negotiations to right that wrong and finally provide the long term certainty that the program needs.
- The current budget climate is unlikely to change anytime soon. With a few staunch opponents of federal land acquisition emboldened by LWCF expiring and not being renewed, backed by those who oppose funding unauthorized programs on ideological grounds, the future of the program looks grim. Since LWCF expired, proposals have been submitted to drastically alter the program by diverting substantial funding to non-conservation purposes and capping successful programs at extremely low funding levels. These proposals cannot be the answer for LWCF!
- As a result of Congress’ inaction on reauthorization, LWCF’s funding will face unprecedented downward pressure in the future, and many important conservation projects will likely be in jeopardy.
- All landowners have the right to see their land conserved if that is their wish, and deserve viable options for keeping working lands in production through easement sales. LWCF is a program that works, with communities clamoring for access to funding through a multi-year process. We must not allow that process to be further handicapped or cut off altogether by letting LWCF expiration to continue.”