President Trump signs America’s Conservation Enhancement Act

By Laura Bies

The president signed the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, but expressed concern about the validity of one provision. Credit: BLM Oregon & Washington

President Trump signed the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (S. 3051) into law on Oct. 30, but expressed concern about a provision in the new law that creates a task force for chronic wasting disease that deals with foreign governments.

“This provision interferes with my exclusive authority under Article II of the Constitution to conduct the nation’s foreign affairs,” said the president in his statement. “Accordingly, my administration will treat it as advisory and non-binding.”

The America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, a package of over two dozen provisions that mostly garnered bipartisan support, includes several provisions that leverage public and private funding to advance conservation.

The bill reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Program. The bill will increase authorized funding for NAWCA, which has helped conserve more than 30 million acres of wetlands by leveraging a 3-to-1 match of private to federal funds, to $60 million annually for the next five years. In recent years, NAWCA has received around $45 million in funding each year from Congress.

The president expressed concern about the CWD provision in the bill through his signing statement. Attached to new laws upon signing, presidents have historically used signing statements to note constitutional objections to provisions in a new law or to indicate how the administration intends to implement it.

In his signing statement, the president argued the provision interfered with his authority to conduct foreign affairs, drawing attention to section 104 of the ACE Act. The act established a new Chronic Wasting Disease Task Force, that, among other tasks, is to “collaborate with foreign governments to share research, coordinate efforts, and discuss best management practices to reduce, minimize, prevent, or eliminate chronic wasting disease in the United States.”

This isn’t the first time the president used a signing statement. When signing the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act (Pub. L. 116-9), enacted in March 2019, he used a signing statement to reign in the power of regional migratory bird flyway councils in establishing hunting seasons. The law requires the Secretary of the Interior follow the recommendation of a regional migratory bird flyway council in establishing hunting seasons for certain migratory birds as long as the recommendations are consistent with science-based and sustainable harvest management.

But, in his signing statement, Trump noted that “the Flyway Councils are not composed of officers of the United States” and that therefore “the Secretary shall not treat this provision as limiting his discretion to reject the recommendation of a flyway council when establishing hunting seasons.”

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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