Manchin, Energy Committee Consider COVID-19 Impacts On Users Of Public Lands

July 23, 2020

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s opening remarks, please click here.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin’s questioning, please click here.

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to examine the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on users of public lands, forests, and national parks. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member of the Committee, highlighted the challenges facing states and communities that rely on  public lands for their livelihoods.

“As is the case with nearly every facet of our society, most users of public lands are continuing to experience a disruption to business as usual due to the coronavirus. I believe it is important for public lands to remain open and accessible when it is safely possible to do so, not only because they offer a wonderful respite and way to enjoy our great outdoors, but also because they are important generators of economic activity, especially for rural America. Many states and local governments rely on federal payment and revenue sharing programs from federal land management agencies to offset the loss of revenues due to the presence of public lands in their jurisdictions. They are are experiencing a gut-wrenching squeeze to their budgets due to the coronavirus,” Ranking Member Manchin said.

Ranking Member Manchin questioned witnesses on what their industries will need from Congress as they combat the COVID-19 pandemic and look towards recovery.

“All of the witnesses raised a number of problems that have affected operations because of the pandemic. I would like to narrow this further and hear from each of you about what you believe the biggest issue you are facing, and what you most urgently need from us,” Ranking Member Manchin said.

“I would love to see the Senate invest in the state infrastructure the same way you have so wisely invested in federal infrastructure. I think it will immediately make an impact on recreation use and put money in Smalltown, USA,” said Mr. Kelly Helper, Secretary, South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks on behalf of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA).

“Senator, I think the Revenue Stabilization Assistance will help with smaller districts that have been unable to get enough help from the CARES Act would be the most beneficial,” said Mr. Doug Kemper, Executive Director, Colorado Water Congress.

“I would say be generous in your appropriations to programs like the Centennial Challenge this year. Those dollars will stimulate more activity from the 450 organizations supporting parks than almost anything,” said Mr. Will Shafroth, President and CEO, National Park Foundation.

“I would have said the Great American Outdoors Act, but that was checked off yesterday. Perhaps a recreation package so that we have better management and tools for our recreation businesses,” said Ms. Jess Turner, Executive Director, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.

The hearing featured witnesses from the Colorado Water Congress, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Park Foundation, and the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. To read their testimony click here.  

To watch the hearing in full, please click here.