Interior Department order implements litany of requirements outside of DOI’s scope, rewrites LWCF language from Great American Outdoors Act
The Trump administration announced today new restrictions and requirements on Land and Water Conservation Fund implementation, including bipartisan language passed overwhelmingly by Congress in the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act and the Great American Outdoors Act, drawing strong criticism from sportsmen and women.
The secretarial order from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt 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.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, which for years has consistently advocated for LWCF’s permanent reauthorization and full, dedicated funding, questioned the administration’s commitment to implementing the Great American Outdoors Act, noting that these requirements fall far outside the Interior Department’s scope – and that Congress had repeatedly rejected these exact restrictions in its decisions to advance both the Dingell Act and the Great American Outdoors Act.
“LWCF is the most successful and widely supported conservation program in history of our nation,” said BHA Conservation Director John Gale. “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 continued. “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,” stated Gale, “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.”
Signed by the president in August, the Great American Outdoors Act achieves a longtime BHA goal by ensuring full and dedicated funding at $900 million annually for LWCF, a popular and successful program that funds conservation and public access projects across the United States. The Dingell Act, which became law in 2019, responded to the outspoken advocacy by millions of Americans, including sportsmen and women, by permanently reauthorizing LWCF.
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