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Congress votes to reauthorize Land and Water Conservation Fund

Congress votes to reauthorize Land and Water Conservation Fund

Congress has voted to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund following a 363-62 vote of the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday.

The vote followed a 92-8 passage in the Senate Feb. 12, and the Natural Resources Management Act — a long piece of legislation that includes many other provisions aside from the reauthorization — will now be sent to the desk of President Donald Trump.

Congressman Mark Meadows (R-Asheville) was one of the few representatives voting against the bill, which enjoyed broad bipartisan support, though in both houses all no votes came from Republicans. North Carolina Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, both Republicans, both voted in favor.

“Today’s passage of S. 47 doesn’t just mean that LWCF can go on protecting land, water and recreation infrastructure — it reaffirms the gold standard in American conservation, that a small percentage of royalties from offshore energy development should be reinvested in the long-term interest of the nation and the public, to maintain our quality of life, our outdoor traditions, our cultural heritage and a healthy future for our children,” said Jonathan Asher, government relations manager at The Wilderness Society and a spokesman for the LWCF Coalition on Feb. 26.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund was created in 1964 to protect natural areas using revenues from offshore oil and gas extraction. The initial legislation was good for 25 years, and the program was renewed for a second 25-year period ending Sept. 30, 2015. It was then given a short-term extension for three years, but efforts to permanently reauthorize it failed before the program’s sunset on Sept. 30, 2018. 

Asher said that yesterday’s vote was an historic win, but that the fight is not yet over.

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“For too long, LWCF funds have been raided for non-conservation government spending,” he said Feb. 26. “Today’s vote is a major win for conservation. LWCF’s funding continues to be low and erratic, creating uncertainty for landowners, stakeholders and community partners that rely on LWCF for multi-phase, highly leveraged projects. Our fight will not be over until LWCF gets permanent, full and dedicated funding.”

Text and voting history for the Natural Resources Management Act, S.47, is online at www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/47. For more about the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s importance to Western North Carolina, visit www.smokymountainnews.com/archives/item/26258.

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