Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Senate votes to reauthorize Land and Water Conservation Fund

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 10:22 AM

The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. - NATIONAL PARK SERVICE PHOTO/ WALKER HALL
  • National Park Service Photo/ Walker Hall
  • The Land and Water Conservation Fund paid for more than $8 million in projects in Rocky Mountain National Park, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition.

The U.S. Senate has passed a massive public lands package that includes legislation to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The package, Senate Bill 47 — which encompasses more than 100 bills addressing land exchanges, national parks, wildlife conservation, recreation and more nationwide — soared through on a vote of 92 to 8. It now goes to the House for consideration.

Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner issued a statement championing the legislation's passage. Gardner, like his counterpart, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, has been a vocal supporter of reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund, which expired in September after legislators failed to reauthorize it, had been used since 1965 to buy and preserve land, water and recreation areas with royalty payments from offshore oil and gas money.

"The [Land and Water Conservation Fund] has a direct impact on public lands in Colorado and will be used to protect our state’s natural beauty for future generations," Gardner said in the statement. "I’m thrilled we were able to finally permanently reauthorize this commonsense program supported by Coloradans across the political spectrum."

Gardner sponsored or cosponsored several Colorado-related bills that were included in the package.

Bennet also issued a statement praising the public lands package. He led or co-led several of the bills, including some that were collaborations with Gardner.

“It’s rare that a bipartisan lands package moves in Congress, so this bill is a significant accomplishment for communities across Colorado,” Bennet said.

Bennet tried to get his Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, which combined four previously introduced bills to protect 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, included in the package, but that amendment did not pass.

Conservation groups in Colorado and beyond applauded the public lands package, especially the fund's reauthorization.

“Today’s vote is a big step toward ending the cycle of uncertainty that has plagued this amazing and incredibly important conservation program," Carlos Fernandez, state director for the Nature Conservancy, said in a statement. “Thank you, Senators Bennet and Gardner, for championing this effort. Your leadership and stalwart support has helped get this legislation to where it is today."

Since 1965, Colorado has received more than $268 million from the fund, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, a group advocating for its reauthorization. The money has paid for projects in Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Arapaho National Forest, Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch and more.

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