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Environment & Science

Senate Committee Passes Bill To Mandate Full LWCF Funding

Larry Barnes LB9
Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
A Montana trout stream in Twin Bridges pictured in 2014.

A U.S. Senate committee on Tuesday advanced a bill that would mandate full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million annually.

LWCF uses tax revenue from offshore drilling to fund state and county projects, like maintenance at fishing access sites and other recreation areas.

Montana Senator Steve Daines sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is up for reelection in 2020.

He said this bill follows permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund earlier this year.

“If we can’t get the full funding, which is the goal, the backup measure here is to continue to push to get significant increases,” he said on a press call.

Daines and Democratic Senator Jon Tester cosponsored a bill signed into law earlier this year permanently authorizing LWCF. Both Montana senators are cosponsoring the current bill mandating full funding at $900 million.

Groups such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition and Trout Unlimited have voiced support of full funding.

Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee, which Daines also sits on, has earmarked $465 million for LWCF next year. The House Appropriation Committee has earmarked about $524 million.

Daines has come under fire from Montana Conservation Voters, a non-profit advocacy group that typically backs Democrats, for encouraging at least two-thirds funding rather than insisting upon full funding as a bottom line. On Tuesday, Daines reiterated his support for full, mandatory funding.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday also passed the Restore Our Parks Act, which would establish a fund to address the National Parks maintenance backlog. Daines is cosponsor on that bill. Tester is not.

The full-funding bill for LWCF passed out of committee 13 to 7. The Restore Our Parks Act passed 15 to 5. Both bills now head to the full Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will determine when they come up for a vote.