House committee advances LWCF funding bill

By Laura Bies

Conservation of the South Fork of the Snake River in Idaho was enabled by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. ©BLM Idaho

A bill requiring mandatory funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund was among one of eight pieces of legislation approved by the House Natural Resources Committee last week during a markup.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act (H.R. 3195), sponsored by Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.), would provide permanent funding for the LWCF at its current authorized annual level of $900 million annually.

Congress permanently reauthorized LWCF in February, but did not provide dedicated funding. Under this new bill, the offshore oil and gas revenues deposited into the fund could be used for public lands conservation without being subject to the appropriations process.

The committee also approved two bills regarding offshore drilling — one that would make permanent a leasing moratorium for the eastern side of the Gulf of Mexico and another to preclude the inclusion of the Atlantic and Pacific planning areas in the administration’s proposed 2019-2024 offshore drilling plan.

Some committee members, including Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), questioned the logic behind voting to fully fund LWCF while at the same time advancing bills blocking new offshore drilling, given that royalties from offshore drilling fund LCWF. “It’s philosophically contradictory,” said Bishop. Twenty-one Democrats voted in favor of the bill, with 13 Republicans voting against the bill. Similar party-lines votes passed the two offshore drilling bills out of committee as well.

The committee was expected to also address the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, (H.R. 1225), sponsored by Bishop, which would address the issue of deferred maintenance on public lands by creating a trust fund from unallocated oil and gas revenues. However, the committee delayed action on that bill and two others, scheduling a hearing for this week.

During the mark-up, the committee also approved several other bills, including H.R. 1305, from Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), to implement a conservation agreement for albatrosses and petrels.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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