Senate reauthorizes LWCF, conservation programs

Picking up after its debates on the legislation package in December, the Senate passed the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47). This bipartisan package contains more than 100 different bills affecting public lands and conservation.

In a major achievement for conservation, the package permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF expired Sept. 30, after a three-year extension of the program concluded. Through LWCF, proceeds from oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters fund the acquisition of parks, forests, recreation areas, wildlife habitat and cultural sites around the country for conservation and public access. Last year, several attempts were made to pass stand-alone LWCF reauthorization before it was ultimately wrapped into this nearly 700-page package of public lands legislation.

The package also includes the WILD Act, which reauthorizes the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program and provides funding for international conservation through the Multinational Species Conservation Act. It also provides funding for invasive species management and calls on agencies to develop plans for invasive species prevention and management.

The package would also reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, to provide up to $6.5 million each year for the next five years. The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, enacted in 2000, provides grants to projects that conserve populations and habitats of neotropical migratory birds. The program’s initial authorization expired in 2012, although it has continued to receive annual appropriations from Congress. Reauthorization will help ensure a steady funding stream for the conservation of neotropical migratory bird species.

In addition to these important conservation provisions, the package designates more than 1.3 million acres in the west as wilderness. It also contains language that establishes three additional national parks and expands the boundaries of eight existing parks.

The Natural Resources Management Act now moves to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to be considered after the mid-February recess.

Header Image: The Tenderfoot Creek drainage, on the Lewis and Clark National Forest, was acquired through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. ©U.S. Forest Service