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Policy Pulse: Environmental Protection and Conservation Still in Budget Limbo

Outdoor America 2018 Issue 4

As Outdoor America went to press, Congress had still not passed a full-year budget for agriculture conservation; environmental protection; and to operate and maintain America’s national parks, wildlife refuges, and other public lands.

With short-term funding running out on December 7, Congress needs to act. Preferably it will pass a full-year budget that effectively protects natural resources, human health, and public lands. If it fails to take this step, it will have to pass another stop-gap bill with only a few months of funding for these critical functions. If this happens, the new Congress that convenes in January would be tasked with wrapping up the process for 2019.

Earlier this year, the House and Senate approved separate conservation funding bills. In an encouraging sign, both bills provide funding at levels far greater than the president called for in his budget recommendation last spring. Perhaps the largest difference between the two bills is the inclusion of amendments that would affect policy — known as “policy riders.” These riders are often attached to “must pass” bills in hopes of reducing opposition to the content of the rider. In the Senate, where bills must have 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, leadership has worked hard during the budget process to keep policy riders off funding bills. The House of Representatives has not striven for “clean” bills.

A major sticking point now is deciding which provisions to include or exclude from a final funding bill. The League believes Congress should set these unrelated provisions aside — since most of them are designed to undermine or roll back safeguards for our environment — and quickly pass full-year budgets that effectively fund conservation and environmental protection.