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House Votes to Advance $1.7 Trillion Spending Bill with Broad Implications for Public Lands and Waters
The Build Back Better Act invests heavily in public lands and waters, important habitat and key management programs; however, hardrock mining measures were stripped
WASHINGTON – Following months of negotiations, the U.S. House of Representatives today voted to pass a massive, $1.7 trillion spending bill using the budget reconciliation process. The Build Back Better Act makes significant investments in public lands and waters, valuable wildlife habitat and key federal management programs that Backcountry Hunters & Anglers have consistently championed.
The bill invests heavily – a total of $27 billion – in forestry and wildfire programs. This represents the most significant investment ever in national forests. More than half of this funding would go to wildfire mitigation efforts such as hazardous fuels reduction and resilience projects. Additionally, $1.25 billion would go to the Forest Legacy Program, which secures conservation easements and protects working forest lands, and $450 million would go to the Forest Service Legacy Roads and Trails Program, which has made major contributions to improve water quality and aquatic habitat.
Habitat improvement, ecosystem restoration and land management would see an investment of $2.5 billion for the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would receive more than $240 million for the National Wildlife Refuge System and state wildlife management areas, nearly $10 million dollars for the mapping, conservation and restoration of big-game migration corridors, and almost $40 million for the restoration of grassland habitat.
Other language in the bill repeals the oil and gas leasing program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and buys back existing leases. The refuge’s coastal plain is home to the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd and encompasses wetlands that are the summer nesting grounds of millions of migratory birds, including waterfowl.
BHA President and CEO Land Tawney affirmed BHA’s support for the legislation and its importance to hunters, anglers and the American people.
“The Build Back Better Act will make historic investments in the conservation of our public lands and waters, the places relied upon by fish and wildlife, and programs critical to our outdoor heritage,” said Tawney. “Hunters and anglers have a huge stake in this monumental legislation, particularly provisions such as the approximately $20 billion for forestry and wildfire programs, repeal of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge leasing mandate, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funding for the improvement and restoration of important habitat.
“We thank House members for their commitment to seeing this bill across the finish line after many months of deliberation,” Tawney continued. “Now, on to the Senate!”
The bill also includes $3 million to the Bureau of Land Management to revise rules and regulations governing hardrock mining. Notably, however, language to modernize the 1872 Mining Law, specifically through addition of a royalty that would raise $1 billion for the reclamation of abandoned hardrock mines, was removed in response to pressure from lawmakers.
“Currently royalties are paid by every other major industry engaged in resource extraction on public lands,” Tawney stated. “This language would have leveled the playing field – as well as generated new revenue that could improve management of our public lands and waters. We’re disappointed in the reversal of this progress, and we’ll continue our efforts to modernize the 1872 Mining Law and fund hardrock mining reclamation on our public lands and waters.”
The Build Back Better Act will now move to the Senate, where it will avoid facing the filibuster due to the budget reconciliation process. However, the bill faces significant hurdles in securing the support of Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), whose votes are critical to its passage. As the Senate considers the Build Back Better Act, BHA encourages retention of the highlighted conservation measures.
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