The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee yesterday held a business meeting to consider and approve 40 bills focused on parks maintenance, geologic mapping, water resource management, wildfire prevention, recreation, and public lands. Chairman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, thanked her colleagues for developing and working together to report the measures to the full Senate.
“We’ve already reported close to 120 bills out of committee in this Congress, and yesterday, we added 40 more to that total. Our ability to report these measures, almost always in a bipartisan manner, is a reflection of the significant time that members and staff alike have devoted to them,” Murkowski said. “Our goal now will be to work with the House Natural Resources Committee to put together a consensus package encompassing a wide array of legislation we have reported and send it to the president’s desk by the end of the year.”
Among the bills reported was S. 3172, the Restore Our Parks Act, sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and 30 other Senators. The bill would provide $1.3 billion per year for five years to help reduce the National Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog, which totaled $11.6 billion in FY 2017. The bill is strongly supported by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and many outside stakeholders.
“Reducing the deferred maintenance backlog at our National Parks is a priority for nearly every member of our committee, and this bill will help ensure that these ‘crown jewels’ and the historic sites within them can be enjoyed by future generations,” Murkowski said. “While we still have work to do to offset the cost of this bill, I’m very pleased to advance it from committee on a strong bipartisan vote.”
In addition to the Restore Our Parks Act, several additional measures important to Alaska were reported from committee yesterday:
- S. 785 (Sullivan/Murkowski), to amend the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to provide for equitable allotment of land to Alaska Native Vietnam veterans.
- S. 884 (Murkowski), regarding claim maintenance fee waivers for four placer miners.
- S. 1149 (Murkowski), to repeal a provision limiting the export of timber harvested from land conveyed to the Kake Tribal Corporation.
- S. 1787 (Murkowski), a bill to reauthorize the National Geologic Mapping Act of 1992.
The committee also reported S. 569, a bill led by Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., to permanently reauthorize and mandate full funding of $900 million per year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). On Sept. 30, 2018, the statutory collection and deposit authorities for LWCF expired, although $22 billion remains in the Fund and the program will continue to receive appropriations and disburse funds for the foreseeable future. While Murkowski voted against S. 569 due to its mandatory nature, she expressed support and willingness to continue to work on a long-term approach that permanently reauthorizes the program and makes reforms important to western states like Alaska.
Among the other measures reported yesterday were bills to:
- Designate three new National Monuments, ensuring Congress leads that process;
- Integrate best available technologies for better wildfire management and response; and
- Facilitate federal land exchanges, water resource management, and recreation.
Archived video, a full list of reported bills, and a rundown of the business meeting are available on the committee’s website.
Murkowski is chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.