RENO, Nev. – As the federal government shutdown drags on, very little is getting done in Congress, much to the frustration of people who want to see important legislation get a vote – bills such as the one that reauthorizes money for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Thursday was the 100th day since Congress let the LWCF lapse in September.
Tim Healion, a restaurateur in Reno and founder of the Nevada Outdoor Business Coalition, notes that Congress was supposed to take a vote during the lame-duck session, but it never happened.
“Now that the government shutdown is taking place, everything’s kind of on the back burner and no one’s talking about anything except opening the government back up,” he laments.
On Friday, the House did vote to reauthorize the fund as part of an Interior appropriations bill.
However, it is unclear if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will bring up a similar bill or a separate public lands bill for a vote, since President Donald Trump has not committed to signing any funding bills that do not include money for a border wall with Mexico.
If the LWCF is reinstated, it would take hundreds of millions of dollars a year from fees on offshore oil and gas drilling, and direct the funds to public lands, parks and recreation facilities.
Healion says the fund has been popular on both sides of the aisle for decades, and needs to be prioritized.
“This seems to be an issue that takes care of everybody,” he states. “It’s not just the tree-hugger vegans. It’s the hunters and fishermen and guys riding quads.
“Everybody likes to play outside. This is about taking care of the places people like to play outside.”
More than 80 percent of the land in Nevada is managed by public agencies. The fund gave about $600,000 to projects in Nevada last year.