Decision On Federal Land And Water Fund Will Wait Until After New Year
Funding for one of the Mountain West's key environmental protection programs is on hold until after the holidays.
Congress has again delayed talks on reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund until it reconvenes in January.
The fund expired back in September. A bipartisan group of western senators attempted to revive it this week by including it the short-term spending bill aimed at preventing a government shutdown.
The LWCF's renewal was bundled with a broader package of public lands bills senators hoped to pass before the holiday break.
But Sen. Mike Lee, a Republican from Utah, objected to its inclusion in the stopgap measure, saying his fellow senators had given him less than a day to review the more than 600-page package.
"It would have been nice to have a road map," he said. "To have some clue as to what might have been in there."
Jim Ramey, Colorado state director for The Wilderness Society, a land conservation advocacy group, said the delay was disappointing.
"Our parks and public lands are already going toh ave lost $220 million," he said "That money ought to be going to support our parks and projects across the country."
The LWCF collects royalties from oil and gas operations on federal lands.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to projects in the Mountain West states in its decades-long history.
Ethan Lane, executive director of the Public Lands Council, said the LWCF still has plenty of money to continue projects - even if it loses some royalty revenue in the meantime.
"There's no rush," he said. "There's plenty of money in the program to hand out to needed projects around the country while we get this right."
Senators have made an agreement that the fund's reauthorization is at the top of their to-do list for when they reconvene.