The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee moves @SenBennetCO and @SenCoryGardner’s Land and Water Conservation Fund bill #LWCF

Sunrise Black Canyon via Bob Berwyn

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

A Senate committee Tuesday approved a bill that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The action by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was one of several it took Tuesday on measures backed by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. Others that were approved by the committee and are supported by the two are bills to address a $12 billion National Park Service maintenance backlog, and to extend endangered fish recovery programs in the Upper Colorado and San Juan rivers through the 2023 fiscal year.

Gardner sits on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Tuesday’s action on the Land and Water Conservation Fund came after it expired Sunday due to a lack of congressional action to reauthorize it.

A bipartisan contingent in Congress is seeking to get legislation through the Senate and House to reauthorize the program. It dates back to 1964 and has resulted in nearly $270 million in spending in Colorado for purposes such as acquiring private inholdings surrounded by federal lands, and to help fund state and local trails and parks, including in Mesa County…

The measure approved Tuesday also would fully fund the program. Congress rarely appropriates the roughly $900 million a year in funding the legislation creating it allows…

Meanwhile, another measure the committee passed Tuesday seeks to reduce the National Park Service maintenance backlog by tapping half of existing unobligated revenues from on and offshore energy development — up to $1.3 billion per year — for the next five years, Gardner’s office said.

Here’s the release from Senator Bennet’s office:

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources today approved six bills sponsored by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet.

Bennet Reaction:

“Today we moved one step closer to passing important public lands legislation for Colorado. From designating a new National Historic Trail to establishing the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps—a program Senator McCain and I worked on for years to make a reality for America’s youth and veterans—the legislation reaffirms our commitment to America’s public lands.

“On Sunday, despite bipartisan support in both chambers, Congress failed to reauthorize LWCF—a widely popular conservation tool in Colorado and across the country. We must pass the bill approved today as soon as possible to ensure LWCF is permanently reauthorized and fully funded for the next generation of Coloradans.

“During a recent trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, I witnessed the effects of chronic underfunding of land management agencies like the National Park Service. It’s critical we address the ongoing maintenance backlog by passing the Restore Our Parks Act.”

Legislative Background:

Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act: Bennet cosponsored this legislation to permanently reauthorize and fully find the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which conserves and promotes access to America’s parks, rivers, forests, and public lands.

Restore Our Parks Act: Bennet cosponsored this legislation to establish the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service.

21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act: With the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Bennet introduced this legislation to place youth and returning veterans in national service positions to protect, restore, and enhance America’s great outdoors. The bill would amend the Public Lands Corps Act of 1993 to establish the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps.

Pike National Historic Trail Study Act: With Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), Bennet introduced this legislation to direct the National Park Service to conduct a study on designating explorer Zebulon Pike’s route through the American Southwest—including significant stretches in Colorado—as a National Historic Trail.

Amache Study Act: With Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), Bennet introduced this legislation to direct the Department of the Interior to conduct a special resource study on the historical significance of the former Japanese American relocation center, Amache, and evaluate the feasibility of it becoming part of the National Park System.

Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Extension Act: Bennet cosponsored this legislation to continue to fund the Upper Colorado and San Juan fish recovery programs through Fiscal Year 2023 to protect four endangered species in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

Here’s the release from Senator Gardner’s office:

On Tuesday the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) serves on, advanced out of committee several pieces of legislation important to Colorado.

Included in the hearing was S. 569, the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act. This legislation, of which Senator Gardner is a cosponsor, aims to fully fund and permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Authorization for LWCF expired on September 30th, and Senator Gardner has been working with a bipartisan group, including Senator Bennet, to reauthorize the conservation program.

“I’ve been fighting to protect the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and today was an important step for the Senate to move out of committee a bipartisan measure that permanently reauthorizes this critical program for Colorado’s public lands,” said Senator Gardner. “There is no excuse on why we can’t get this done as there is a clear bipartisan consensus in both the House and Senate on the immense benefits of this crown jewel of conservation programs.”

Also passing out of committee in today’s hearing was S.3172, the Restore our Parks Act. This legislation, of which Senator Gardner is also a cosponsor, addresses the $12 billion park maintenance backlog that is preventing new investments and infrastructure improvements to parks in Colorado and across the country. This measure would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating half of the existing unobligated revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development – up to $1.3 billion per year – for the next five years.

“We have to provide Colorado’s parks the funding necessary to help address the billions of dollars in deferred maintenance that the park system is currently facing,” said Senator Gardner. “The Restore our Parks Act will protect these lands by allowing for needed investments for park infrastructure and preservation projects.”

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