Interior reins in Great American Outdoors Act

-The Hagstrom Report

Interior Secretary David Berhardt last week issued a secretarial order to require written support from local governments for any land or water acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The LWCF got $900 million annually in funding authorization under the Great American Outdoors Act passed earlier this year and signed by President Donald Trump.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Public Lands Council, which opposed the law, praised the order.

But Backcountry Hunters and Anglers said it “adds a litany of new rules governing deployment of LWCF funds, including eliminating outright funds for projects enabling land acquisition by the Bureau of Land Management and infringing on private landowner rights by stipulating that state and local officials can veto LWCF-funded land acquisitions from willing sellers who are dedicated to the conservation and stewardship of our natural resources.”

“The LWCF was originally created to be used as a discrete tool to strengthen recreational opportunities for local communities and improve public lands management. States and local stakeholders know best what their communities need and should be directly involved in these decisions,” said Kaitlynn Glover, NCBA executive director of natural resources and PLC executive director.

“Ranchers appreciate Secretary Bernhardt’s work to make certain LWCF cannot be used as a tool for rampant, unchecked acquisitions that would compromise the health of Western landscapes and federal agencies’ ability to manage the lands and waters already under their purview.”

But Backcountry Hunters and Anglers said “These requirements fall far outside the Interior Department’s scope” and had been rejected by Congress.”

John Gale, the group’s conservation director, said, “For over 50 years, LWCF’s impressive record of enhancing public access, conserving critical fish and wildlife habitat and buttressing state and local recreation infrastructure demonstrates how effective it’s been in every corner of the country.”

“The Trump administration touted its support of the Great American Outdoors Act — including full, dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and addressing critical deferred maintenance needs — on the campaign trail,” Gale said.

“However, since the bill’s passage, the administration has missed legally required congressional reporting deadlines, eliminated numerous projects already proposed to Congress, and used misleading accounting methods to claim it is meeting congressionally mandated allocation percentages for LWCF funding. Actions speak louder than words, and it escapes all reason why this lame-duck administration would suddenly decide to sully the legacy it stood proudly for just weeks ago.

“With today’s announcement by Secretary Bernhardt, the administration is sending all Americans a clear and unmistakable message that they only care about our public lands and waters when it’s convenient or politically advantageous.”

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