House bill reintroduced to permanently reauthorize LWCF

By Rachel Schadegg

©Frank Kovalchek

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) introduced H.R.502 on Jan. 12 to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Grijalva introduced an identical bill last Congress which garnered the support of 211 bipartisan co-sponsors, but it stalled in committee and did not make it to a vote on the House floor. Permanent reauthorization of LWCF was included as part of the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016 (S. 2012) which passed through the Senate last Congress, but ultimately did not pass the House.

Although the permanent reauthorization of LWCF is again supported by members of both parties, the newly introduced bill will likely still face opposition from some members. Last Congress, permanent reauthorization did not have the support of House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT).

Originally signed into law in 1964, LWCF provides funding for federal, state, and local government agencies to acquire and manage public lands for conservation and outdoor recreational use. Wildlife professionals utilize LWCF-protected lands and waterways to sustainably manage wildlife resources and to protect and enhance the habitats of threatened and endangered species.

Congress is authorized to appropriate LWCF funds at a maximum of $900 million per year from offshore oil and gas extraction revenue. However, that annual appropriation cap has only been met twice since the fund’s inception; Congress appropriates an average of $340 million per year. It has historically been authorized for decades at a time, but it neared expiration in 2015 and was temporarily reauthorized until September 2018.

President Trump’s nomination of Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) for Secretary of the Interior has raised hopes that permanent reauthorization of LWCF could become a reality during this 115th Congress. Zinke is a self-professed lifelong outdoorsman who expressed support for LWCF during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Jan. 17. He also co-sponsored Grijalva’s previous bill to permanently reauthorize LWCF last Congress.

The Wildlife Society is a member of the LWCF Coalition and recognizes the critical role that LWCF plays in enabling wildlife professionals to to better manage and conserve public-trust wildlife resources.

Read the LWCF Coalition’s Statement in Support of Nomination of Congressman Ryan Zinke as Interior Secretary.

View TWS’ Policy Brief Series for information on wildlife-related U.S. and Canadian federal policies and programs.

Rachel Schadegg is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program. Read more of Rachel's articles here.