Lands Package Lacks Essential Reforms and Oversight

NTU urges all Senators to vote “NO” on S. 47, the “Natural Resources Management Act.” This legislation would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), reducing opportunities for Congressional oversight and reform.  

The Government Accountability Office identified “Managing Federal Real Property” as  “High Risk” in its 2017 report, citing excess property. The Department of the Interior claims a $16 billion deferred maintenance backlog, with $11.6 billion attributable to the National Park Service. Many Western states and their communities find it harder to fund basic services—including those for federal lands within their borders—as increased acres are removed from the local tax base and out of production. It’s clear we need a serious conversation about how much land should be in the hands of the federal government and how it should be managed. Unfortunately, by permanently reauthorizing the LWCF (or worse, making its funding mandatory) this important national conversation would be taken off the table.

Instead of a permanent authorization of a program in need of better oversight, Congress should be encouraging private land conservation through continued support of smart tax and regulatory policies. Conservation easements have successfully put aside more than 55 million acres for conservation in manner that is voluntary, retains some use, and doesn’t add to the taxpayer burden of federal land management.

In addition, amendments to be offered by Senator Lankford (R-OK) would increase much-needed oversight and accountability of the LWCF, with an emphasis on improved management of land already acquired by the federal government. From a long-term taxpayer perspective, this would better control cost escalation within the program. Senators should support these and other amendments that would retain or improve Congressional oversight and cost-savings.

Roll call votes on S. 47 will be included in NTU’s annual Rating of Congress and a “NO” vote will be considered the pro-taxpayer position.