Conservationists Breathe Sigh Of Relief Over Passage Of Spending Bill

Dec 17, 2015

Environmental advocates are celebrating this week after Congress passed a bipartisan spending bill that at one point included several provisions blocking conservation efforts.

After much talk of letting it lapse, the 50-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund was re-authorized to fund city parks and national park in-holdings. It also gave a 6% increase to federal land management agencies, a total of over $32 billion.

National Wildlife Federation public lands policy director Kate Zimmerman says one provision that was removed would have pulled the rug out from under the new federal sage grouse plans.

“The rider that had been proposed would have kept the federal land management agencies from meeting those commitments they had made and would have put the bird back on an imperiled list, nd would mean that it would, in fact, need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. We’d like to give these plans an opportunity to work."

She says the bill even went one step further, adding money to implement those plans.

“It’s only about $60 million,” she admits. “But it does give the federal government, the federal land management agencies a little extra boost in funding that it needs in order to implement the sage grouse plans that it’s adopted.”

But Zimmerman says there is one disappointment: the bill failed to solve the problem of wild fire management, which in recent years has been burning through the Forest Service’s budget.