Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Trump Signals Support For LWCF Funding, National Parks Maintenance

A group of men in suits look at landscape images of the prairie.
Sen. Cory Gardner
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators announced new legislation aimed at mandating full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and addressing the maintenance backlog for National Parks at a press conference Mar. 4, 2020.

Full funding for a federal purse that supports local conservation projects seems a step closer to reality. A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators Mar. 4 announced presidential support for a bill to fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and address the maintenance backlog for the country’s National Parks.

The Trump Administration’s proposed budget last month earmarked just shy of $15 million for the LWCF. That’s down 97 percent from the $495 million Congress approved last year.

But in an apparent change of heart this week, the president publicly signaled his support for the fund in a tweet that lauded U. S. Senators Steve Daines of Montana and Cory Garder of Colorado, both Republicans up for reelection this year.

Daines said he and Gardner met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump last week to push for the conservation measures.

"In fact Cory and I both shared pictures from Colorado and Montana," Daines said at a press conference in Washington, D.C. announcing the legislation. "And he was taken aback by the beauty of our states and what the Land and Water Conservation Fund as well as our parks do. It was a great moment. He committed to doing it."

Montana Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat, said he’s advocated for the fund for a decade and will be an original co-sponsor of the forthcoming legislation.

"Every day that goes by we're losing ecosystems in this country. These are ecosystems our kids could enjoy 100 years from now but will be gone and once they're gone, they're gone forever. So getting this to $900 million is quite frankly a no-brainer for the Land and Water Conservation Fund because there are so many places to use those dollars," Tester said.

Language of the standalone legislation is expected to closely resemble two bills introduced last year: the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act and the Restore Our Parks Act. Both had broad bipartisan support in the Senate and House but stalled.

The new bill is expected to authorize $6.5 billion over the next five years to address some $12 billion-worth of backlogged National Park Service maintenance projects. It would also permanently mandate $900 million annually for the LWCF, which uses tax revenue from offshore oil and gas development to pay for local parks and access to public lands.

Senator Daines says he expects the bill to be introduced by the end of the week, with floor action by April.