On September 13, the House Natural Resources Committee held a markup and passed two bills including H.R. 502, a bill to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as well as H.R. 6510, the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act.
H.R. 502, would permanently reauthorize LWCF at the current authorized level of $900 million. During the markup, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (UT) offered an amendment to increase public land access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and outdoor recreation associated with LWCF. Recent estimates suggest there are nearly 10 million acres of public land in 13 western states that are open to these outdoor pastimes, but the general public is currently unable to access these lands due to issues with adjacent private landholdings, topography, and checkerboard land ownership patterns, among other reasons.
Chairman Bishop’s amendment will require that 3% or $20 million, whichever is greater, of the funds appropriated to LWCF will be made available to maintain or increase public access to lands that provide recreational shooting, hunting, fishing and other recreational outdoor opportunities. This amendment also requires the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to annually develop a priority list that would help guide the uses of the available funds for the purposes of expanding hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting opportunities on public lands. This amendment is largely consistent with the Making Public Lands Public Act (H.R. 2950), which was introduced by CSC Member Steve Pearce (NM).
H.R. 6510, which was introduced by Chairman Bishop, will provide the Department of the Interior with up to $1.3 billion in annual funding for five years to address deferred maintenance backlog of the National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). Specifically, the funds would be allocated according to the following formula:
- 80% of the funds made available will be allocated to NPS for high-priority maintenance needs
- 10% of the funds made available will be allocated to FWS to address the maintenance backlog within the National Wildlife Refuge System
- 5% of the funds made available will be allocated to BLM to address public access and recreation backlog
- 5% of the funds made available will be allocated to BIE for school construction and deferred maintenance backlog.
Prior to the markup, the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), of which CSF is a member, sent a letter to Chairman Bishop and Ranking Member Grijalva thanking them for including funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System maintenance backlog in H.R. 6510. The maintenance backlog for the Refuge System is currently at $1.4 billion, and this legislation will help provide funding to continue to reduce the maintenance backlog, which stood at $3.5 billion in FY10.
H.R. 502 and H.R. 6510 now await a floor vote in the House of Representatives.
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