Senate committee approves LWCF bill, Interior nomination

By Laura Bies

LWCF funding partly helped conserve the Sandy River Basin in Oregon. ©BLM Oregon and Washington

As Congress prepares for the upcoming Thanksgiving recess, the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee made several important decisions including approving Land and Water Conservation Fund legislation as well as a Department of Interior nomination.

Last week, the committee approved legislation — in a 13 to 7 vote — that would provide permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund at its current authorized annual level of $900 million. 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 land conservation without being subject to Congress’s annual appropriations process. The House Natural Resources Committee passed a similar bill, which was recently placed on the calendar for a vote in front of the full House of Representatives.

The Wildlife Society supported permanent LWCF funding in the 116th Congress and joined with partner organizations in August to write to the leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee supporting this and other legislation.

The committee also approved the nomination of Katharine MacGregor, who was chosen by the president to serve as deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior, a position that has been vacant since David Bernhardt left the position to become secretary of the department.

MacGregor first joined the department as a special assistant to former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and later became principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management. Her nomination now must be considered by the full Senate.

Other key positions within the administration remain vacant. Of the four primary federal natural resource management agencies, only the U.S. Forest Service has a confirmed chief in place, while the director positions for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service are still lacking Senate-confirmed appointees.

Aurelia Skipwith was nominated for Fish and Wildlife Service Director in Oct. 2018, but her nomination was not acted on by the previous Congress. She was re-nominated on July 17 and now awaits Senate confirmation. The BLM and the NPS are awaiting formal nominees by the president for this session of Congress.

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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