Federal Funding Bill Marks Progress for Land and Water Conservation

Congress has released its omnibus federal spending package, which sets funding levels for government agencies for Fiscal Year 2016. It also contains a number of conservation and environmental provisions that will affect America’s lands, waters, and wildlife, including a three-year reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and funding that program at $450 million next year. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill later this week.  

The Nature Conservancy has released the following statement from our global Managing Director for Public Policy Lynn Scarlett in response to the omnibus bill:  

“The omnibus bill shows promise on many of the top conservation issues facing our nation today. The bill includes greater overall funding for critical land and water conservation work that supports secure and prosperous communities across America, and we are grateful for that commitment.  
“We are particularly eager to see the Land and Water Conservation Fund continue its critical work for conservation and recreation. The short-term reauthorization of LWCF in the omnibus is helpful progress that will allow continued investment in the lands and waters that sustain our communities, boost our economy and safeguard our environment. And, it will do so with higher funding next year than the program has had for many years. We’re happy to see this vital and successful 50-year-old program continue to deliver important economic, recreation, and natural resource benefits to the American people.  
“However, we—and many other Americans from coast to coast—believe we must continue to work toward a fully funded and permanent future for LWCF. Conserving our nation’s lands and waters is not a short-term need; it is a long-term foundation for our future. Congressional leaders on LWCF fought hard for a permanent reauthorization, and we are grateful for their dedication and persistence. We’ll do everything we can to support that continued effort to make a sustainable, long-term future for LWCF become reality.
“In another positive development, the omnibus bill makes enhanced tax deductions for conservation easement donations permanent. This ensures that one of the most effective tools for conserving private working lands across the country will be available for future generations. In addition, dozens of harmful riders that would have undermined environmental law were originally under consideration, but were dropped from the final bill. We appreciate the efforts of members of Congress who steadfastly opposed the riders.
“But we are disappointed this bill did not include a fix for the wildfire funding problem that has plagued forest health and restoration efforts for years. This was a missed opportunity, despite bipartisan support, a great deal of effort from congressional champions and broad consensus that action is urgently needed. We will continue to work with Congress to provide a solution next year.”