Senate Turns its Back on Western Communities
Votes for permanent reauthorization of controversial federal land acquisition fund
WASHINGTON (April 20, 2016) – As part of the Energy Security and Research Bill (S.2012) passed today by the U.S Senate, the Senate inappropriately included a provision permanently reauthorizing the $900 million Land and Water Conservation Fund with a requirement that not less than 40 percent of LWCF money be spent on federal acquisitions. In the process, the Senators voted down even common-sense reform amendments like that of Sen. Lankford (R-Okla.) which would have required a maintenance component to any new federal acquisition.
“It’s disappointing to see Senators from Western states turn their backs on their constituents that are so heavily impacted by the large federal footprint in the West,” said Brenda Richards, Public Lands Council president. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund has never been fully funded because it is so controversial; to permanently authorize LWCF eliminates any opportunity to ever have a conversation about reform that is so badly needed.”
LWCF is the chief land acquisition tool of the federal government. The federal government already owns more than 660 million acres of land, which is approximately one-third of the entire United States landmass. Over 90 percent of this land is found in the West and the presence of federal land ownership greatly complicates local and state governance.
“We realize that there may be certain times that land acquisition is necessary,” said Tracy Brunner, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association president. “But in the face of an $18 billion federal maintenance backlog, new federal land acquisitions without adequate funding for ongoing care and maintenance is just irresponsible.”
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