October 31, 2019

VIDEO: Udall Defends the Land and Water Conservation Fund on Senate Floor Ahead of Key Interior Appropriations Vote

VIDEO LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhcS5onw_QE&feature=youtu.be

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, spoke on the Senate floor to defend the Land and Water Conservation Fund against a proposed amendment that would block the Department of the Interior from using LWCF funds to purchase land for conservation purposes.

On the floor, Udall highlighted the bipartisan support for the LWCF funding in the Interior Appropriations bill. The Interior funding bill, which includes increased funding for LWCF among other provisions Udall fought for such as increased funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, programs for Indian Country, and protections for Chaco Canyon, was unanimously approved by the Senate Appropriations committee.

The Senate defeated the anti-LWCF amendment, offered by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), that would have blocked LWCF funds for land acquisition, by a vote of 29-64. The amendment would have devastated the LWCF program which purchases lands from willing sellers to preserve special landscapes and improve public access to treasured public lands.

“There are many bipartisan land acquisition priorities that are funded in this bill,” said Udall. “They would all be stopped in their tracks if this amendment were to be adopted. We need LWCF to enable better access for Americans to their own public lands.” 

The full text of Udall’s remarks as prepared for delivery is available below.

Mr. President, I rise to oppose the Lee amendment and efforts to undermine the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

This amendment would prohibit the Department of the Interior from using LWCF funds to acquire Federal lands and waters. 

The underlying bill actually increases funding for LWCF by $30 million --- and does so with deep bipartisan support from a majority of Senators. It passed committee 31 to 0.

And so I urge the Senate sending another strong message today to support LWCF. There are many bipartisan land acquisition priorities that are funded in this bill. They include: funds to improve access to the Aravaipa Canyon in Arizona; preserve wildlife habitat in the Everglades Headwaters and St. Marks Refuges in Florida; protect the Palo Alto Battlefield in Texas and other historic battlefield sites; and funds to expand El Malpais National Monument in my state of New Mexico.

These are just a few of the projects that our constituents back home are expecting the Department to fund. They would all be stopped in their tracks if this amendment were to be adopted.  

We need LWCF to enable better access for Americans to their own public lands. This program works with private landowners and willing sellers to continue to protect special places for generations to come.  

I know a bipartisan majority of this body understands that and I ask my colleagues to stand with me to defeat this amendment.