To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s floor remarks, please click here.
Washington, DC - Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, applauded the passage of the first public lands package in five years. The Natural Resources Management Act, which includes more than 130 bills, passed the Senate by a vote of 98-2. The legislation will permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and increases access to federal lands for America’s sportsmen and sportswomen.
“I’m proud to have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass a public lands bill with broad bipartisan support. We have finally permanently reauthorized LWCF so our land management agencies can operate fully and without the fear of losing access to the funding they rely on. West Virginia has a rich cultural history and at the core of that is our deep appreciation for the natural wonders we are blessed with. Our little state is as wild as it is wonderful and we take great pride in our access to the great outdoors. This package is a win for West Virginia and a win for every community across the country,” Senator Manchin said.
LWCF is a conservation tool that ensures states and federal public land management agencies are able to protect and conserve our natural resources without relying on taxpayer dollars. The program puts royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and natural gas in the Outer Continental Shelf into a fund in the U.S. Treasury to be allocated to states and the Federal government for the purpose of protecting, conserving and improving our public spaces. Since 1965, about $18.4 billion of LWCF funds have been appropriated. LWCF expired in September 2018 after a brief 3-year extension in 2015. However, permanent reauthorization passed the Senate when it was included in the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015.
The Natural Resources Management Act also includes significant wins for America’s sportsmen and sportswomen. The legislation will increase access to federal lands for hunting and fishing, includes a clear Congressional declaration for all federal departments and agencies to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting, fishing and recreational shooting opportunities on federal lands. The bill establishes a national “open unless closed” standard for hunting and finishing on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands and requires land management agencies to listen to local, public input before they can close any lands to hunting or shooting. The legislation authorizes two additional days to the current duck hunting season, specifically for veterans and youth.
“Every year, approximately 47 million Americans participate in hunting and fishing providing a direct economic benefit in excess of $201.4 billion per year and supporting 1.5 million jobs. In West Virginia, our love of the outdoors is deeply engrained in our culture and identity. Every year, more than 350,000 hunters take to the woods in West Virginia. This hunting contributes nearly $270 million to West Virginia’s economy and supports 5,000 jobs. The passage of the Natural Resources Management Act expands West Virginians access to the land we cherish,” Senator Manchin said.
“The comprehensive public lands package is the product of years’ worth of work and negotiations by the authorizing committees. It is thoroughly bipartisan in nature and broad in scope, and passage of this package would be a historical step forward for public lands and conservation,” said Collin O’Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.
“Many of the bills under consideration in the package would have measurable benefits for conservation of our public lands and waters, the outdoor recreation experiences these places provide, and the thriving outdoor recreation economy that our public lands support,” said Amy Roberts, Executive Director of the Outdoor Industry Association.
“By reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, this bill supports West Virginia’s heritage and outdoor recreation economy and keeps faith with the important idea that America’s outdoors and public lands are part of who we are as a nation,” said Angie Rosser, Executive Director of West Virginia Rivers.
The Natural Resources Management Act also:
- Adds over 367 miles of rivers to the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System
- Adds over 2,600 miles of new trails to the National Trails System
- Designates 694,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas
- Increases the size of our National Parks by over 42,000 acres
- Creates four new national monuments
- Provides direction to all federal departments and agencies to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting, fishing and recreational shooting opportunities on federal lands