LWCF, horse amendments to energy bill pass Senate

By Lauren McDonald

©Hilary Coles

After months of delay, the Energy Policy Modernization Act (S. 2012) was passed by the Senate in a decisive 85-12 vote.

The bill was introduced in by Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in September 2015, but was tabled while Congress discussed legislation pertaining to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. While this bill is primarily focused on energy infrastructure, it contained several components related to wildlife conservation.

The bill included an expansive natural resource [package] that was overwhelmingly supported in a 97-0 vote. The package included text that would expand recreational hunting and angling opportunities on public lands, and would reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

In addition to the natural resource package, the energy bill contains a modified version of Senator Burr’s (R-NC) amendment (Burr #3175) on managing the Corolla wild horse population on the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.

The original amendment would have legislatively mandated that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manage for nonnative wild horses on a wildlife refuge, which goes against the purpose of the refuge system to protect native species.

The Wildlife Society lead a broad sign-on letter to the Senate urging members to oppose the original amendment in order to uphold the mission of the refuge system and ensure management decisions are based on science. The modified amendment addressed the concerns outlined in the letter and eliminated all language that would compromise the intent of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

S. 2012 also included permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). As a part of the bipartisan deal, 40 percent of LWCF funds must go wildlife grants and conservation easements in addition to the funds that are required to go federal lands acquisition.

The companion energy bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 8) passed in December 2015. In an interview with press, Senator Murkowski stated that she hopes that Congress will come to an agreement on the energy bills, and have a final bill complete in mid-July.

For more information about the legislative process, see TWS’ Policy Toolkit.

Lauren McDonald is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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