In stormy markup, U.S. House panel OKs parks, drilling and LWCF bills

from Greenwire:

NATURAL RESOURCES

In stormy markup, panel OKs parks, drilling and LWCF bills

Kellie Lunney, E&E News reporter   Thursday, September 13, 2018

 

The House Natural Resources Committee today marked up legislation dealing with revenue sharing, national parks, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other matters. Natural Resources Committee

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Despite last-minute fireworks from a Louisiana Republican, a House committee this morning advanced three major bills, including one that permanently reauthorizes a popular land and water conservation program before it expires on Sept. 30.

Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, hammered out a bipartisan agreement that extends the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a major win for many of the program’s supporters who are tired of 11th-hour scrambles over the years to temporarily authorize LWCF.

The voice vote on the deal came as a surprise during a markup that initially was only supposed to consider one bill: the “Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act,” H.R. 6510.

But a decision by House leadership to cancel tomorrow’s session, as well as pressure from Louisiana Republican Rep. Garret Graves to take up his bill boosting the share of offshore oil and gas drilling revenues for Gulf Coast states, forced a doubleheader session on the three bills, as Bishop put it.

The committee also advanced Graves’ bill — H.R. 6771, which would increase the revenue-sharing for Gulf states from the current level of 37.5 percent to 50 percent — and the parks bill by voice vote.

The LWCF bill would allocate 40 percent of money to the fund’s state-side program, 40 percent to the federal government and 20 percent for other necessary activities that could include deferred maintenance needs, for example.

Under the legislation, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories would be treated as individual states with equal shares for the purposes of LWCF.

Another provision would give a 3 percent set-aside for recreation access, requiring the Interior secretary to put together a list of priority projects.

“This is a taste of what’s possible when people work together in good faith,” Grijalva said today. “Days like these are far too rare in Congress, and if we keep this up, we might just restore public trust in Congress’ ability to get things done.”

Bishop added, “My reservations about the program have never been about the goals of LWCF, rather I’ve been frustrated that the implementation of the program fell short of the law’s intended purpose.”

Bishop stuck to his agreement with Grijalva, rejecting several ultimately unsuccessful amendments from other Republicans, including one from Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, seeking to decrease the annual authorized $900 million LWCF amount by half.

Another from Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) would have required the Interior secretary to sell an equal number of acres for land acquired by the federal government under LWCF.

LWCF still has a way to go in the face of an abbreviated congressional calendar: The full House needs to take up the measure, and the matter remains in limbo in the Senate. Members there continue to struggle to find a vehicle for reauthorization.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the program’s longtime champion who has been pushing in recent weeks to permanently reauthorize it, said he’s “been closely following” the House bill.

“There is strong, bipartisan support in both chambers for permanently reauthorizing LWCF,” Burr said in a statement. “With the program’s expiration deadline quickly approaching, I will not let up my push for a vote on LWCF to save America’s most popular and successful conservation program.”

Burr has not yet taken a position on the House bill, said his spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll.

Outside groups were pleased with today’s outcome.

“We’re thrilled that Chairman Bishop and ranking member Grijalva are working together on a compromise that advances the Land and Water Conservation Fund in a meaningful way. We’re now one step closer to permanently reauthorizing LWCF,” said Julia Peebles, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers’ government relations manager.

However, Peebles acknowledged that the fight wasn’t over. “BHA and our partners will redouble our efforts in support of LWCF to ensure that this bill crosses the finish line — and we also will continue our work to secure dedicated funding for America’s most popular and successful conservation and access program,” she said.

Bipartisan parks bill

The parks bill would create a five-year, $6.5 billion fund for four Interior agencies to address long-standing maintenance and construction backlogs at the nation’s parks, wildlife refuges and Bureau of Indian Education schools.

“I recognize this won’t stand alone, but ultimately there will be other pieces that have to go forward with it,” said Bishop, specifically mentioning revenue-sharing with states and the authorization of the LWCF as “elements” that ultimately will have to be dealt with in some way.

The money for the proposed “National Park Service and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund” would be made up of 50 percent of all otherwise unallocated revenue from energy production on federal lands and waters.

Interior’s largest agencies — the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the Bureau of Indian Education — would benefit from the fund. The legislation, similar to a bipartisan bill introduced in June in the Senate, is a combination of existing proposals.

But today’s markup devolved into a debate over where precious oil and gas drilling revenues go and which lands and waters benefit from those conservation dollars.

Graves and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) unsuccessfully introduced several amendments — more than 20 — to H.R. 6510. All the provisions essentially tried to protect the Gulf Coast states from losing out.

Lawmakers from those states, which produce the lion’s share of offshore oil and gas drilling revenues, are concerned the parks bill would take money meant for them.

GOMESA

The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, passed after Hurricane Katrina, allowed Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to share 37.5 percent of oil and gas revenues produced in federal waters off their coasts to assist them with coastal restoration and hurricane protection.

Graves used the markup to vociferously fight for his state’s share of oil and gas drilling money, which Louisiana uses for coastal restoration and other conservation projects.

While the panel rejected his amendments to the parks bill, no one voiced objection to his GOMESA reform legislation, just introduced yesterday.

Kevin Roig, Graves’ deputy chief of staff, said his bill “brings revenue-sharing from offshore production more in line with onshore. While state producing energy onshore federal lands get to retain 50 percent of the energy revenues, coastal states have received a small fraction.”

Roig said Graves’ bill would also ensure new revenues would go to coastal restoration projects that help communities better weather hurricanes and other disasters. The proposed 50 percent in sharing would be for leases issues after December 2006.

California Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman said he wanted to focus on areas of agreement to restore important wetlands in Louisiana and elsewhere.

“We’ve got a lot of grievances we can bring to these conversations,” Huffman said to Graves, responding to the Louisianan’s remarks over how other states benefit greatly from his state’s energy development.

“I want to see the right thing done, but without punishing other states,” Huffman said.

Twitter: @klunney Email: klunney@eenews.net

 

President Names Vela to Lead National Park Service

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela has been nominated to serve as the next director of the National Park Service.

Ending two months of speculation on Friday, President Donald Trump named Vela as his pick to head the agency, which has not had a permanent director since Jonathan Jarvis retired in January 2017.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke praised the move in an official release.

“David Vela has demonstrated all of the ideals that the National Park Service stands for,” Zinke said, “and his long track record of leadership on behalf of the people and places of the National Park Service distinguish him as the right man for the job.”

 

 

 

 

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela has been nominated to serve as the next director of the National Park Service.

Ending two months of speculation on Friday, President Donald Trump named Vela as his pick to head the agency, which has not had a permanent director since Jonathan Jarvis retired in January 2017.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke praised the move in an official release.

 “David Vela has demonstrated all of the ideals that the National Park Service stands for,” Zinke said, “and his long track record of leadership on behalf of the people and places of the National Park Service distinguish him as the right man for the job.”

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Full story

 

National Discussion: Maintenance Backlog of NPS, Video

 

 

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Department of the Interior Press Release:  National Parks Infrastructure Discussion   here

Maintenance Backlog, National Parks:  A Love Story  video  

New Cottages and $55 mil in Bond Funds for WV State Parks

Three new cottages were opened July 16 at Chief Logan State Park in West Virginia.  Construction dollars came from gas and oil bonus funds directed to State Parks.  More detail on cottages here.  Additional projects are scheduled to begin as funds become available.

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Also, on July 18, the RFP was went out to release $55M in bonds for repairs and improvements to West Virginia State Parks.  Most of the funds will be used to address  infrastructure repairs, lodge and cabin upgrades and other deferred maintenance needs.   

State Parks (WV) look to cater to top outdoor activities

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The top man with the West Virginia State Parks told lawmakers Tuesday the Mountain State is a treasure for adventure seekers and the parks are trying to do more to accommodate those looking for adventure activities.

Sam England detailed a list of the top ten outdoor pursuits ranked by the amount of money spent to pursue them nationally during an appearance Tuesday before a legislative interim committee. The top listing was trail sports, which includes hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and horseback riding. The category also included rappelling and bouldering as well as trail running.

Full story 

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Camping at Audra State Park in Barbour County, WV

 

The 50 Governors Have Proclaimed June as Great Outdoors Month

All 50 governors have now proclaimed June Great Outdoors Month!

Visit www.greatoutdoorsmonth.org/proclamations to see photos and download PDFs of every state’s celebration of America’s great outdoors.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is joining the recognition of outdoor recreation on America’s public lands, releasing a new video celebrating recreation’s return and emphasizing the need for modernization of infrastructure.  Watch, share and comment on the video via YouTube, Facebookand twitter.

Governor, Officials Push State Park Use (Vermont)

 

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott declared June Great Outdoors Month last week at Elmore State Park.

Governor Phil Scott came back to his sometime childhood home on the shores of Lake Elmore last Thursday to encourage more people to get outside and take advantage of what is perhaps Vermont’s most valuable resource: itself.

“We have a shared respect and appreciation for our landscape and our great Vermont outdoors,” Scott said during a press conference in Elmore State Park. “We understand that our forests, fields, mountains, lakes and rivers provide enjoyment and economic benefit to our state, our residents, as well as our visitors here.”

Scott said Vermont has 850,000 acres of public land available for all manner of outdoor recreation, and 8,000 miles of trails.

“That’s equal to walking to California and back with enough left over to hike the entire Appalachian Trail,” he said.

Thursday’s press conference served a couple of purposes — actually, three, as reporters from several Vermont media outlets pressed the governor on a potential government shutdown.

In a somewhat drizzly day that has proven the anomaly over the past month, Scott proclaimed the month of June, 2018 as Great Outdoors Month. The proclamation, in part, reads, “Our kids today spend an average of 10 hours a day in front of a screen and outdoor activity is touted by many leading health organizations as a remedy for the adverse effects caused by our increasing inactivity.”

The question is how to get more people outside, and Scott was joined by Vermont State Parks director Craig Whipple and Julie Moore, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. Whipple quipped that sometimes it takes a little “gimmick” to encourage people to get outdoors.

Some of those include making parks passes available at libraries all over the state — you check them out the same way you would a book or a DVD — or offering doctors special prescription pads that they can fill out and give to patients, giving them a free day pass.

Noting that one of the biggest barriers to camping is buying all the gear, the parks department is also launching a “first time happy camper” program that supplies all the necessary gear and a day pass to one of five parks in the pilot program: Bomoseen, Button Bay, Grand Isle, Stillwater and Woodford.

Moore used the governor’s press conference to talk about the new Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge, a scavenger hunt of sorts where participants score points for all manner of outdoor activity.

Most activities score 5 or 10 points. Reach 250 points and you get a day pass good for any state park for the rest of 2018 and all of 2019.

“Literally, we have a little something for everybody, whether it’s camping, swimming, hiking, fishing, boating or picnicking, all of these opportunities are available across Vermont’s state parks,” Moore said.

This being the governor’s weekly press conference, most journalists in attendance were there to press Scott on one issue: does the administration have a contingency plan if he and lawmakers cannot come to an agreement on a statewide budget and tax plan by the end of this month?

The next fiscal year begins July 1, and many government agencies won’t be able to operate without a budget in place. That includes the state parks.

Scott refused to be pinned down, saying he is confident the two sides will reach an agreement, but stopping short of saying he would sign a budget or announce contingency plans.

The News & Citizen had a question more related to the venue and the previous outdoors initiatives: how is the funding for the cleaning of rivers and lakes, including ones in the very state parks being touted?

Lake Elmore, for one, is not in danger of becoming unusable, said Scott.

Moore said the state has allocated 75 percent more money for clean water initiatives than the previous two fiscal years. She added state parks employees are also going to assess the health of the waterways in their parks.

More information on the Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge: vtstateparks.com.

 

America’s State Parks 2018 Photo Contest

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The National Association of State Park Directors Announces Launch of America’s State Parks 2018 Photo Contest
Packed with Prizes Valued at $4,500, the Photo Contest That Celebrates State Parks is Now Open for Submissions

Raleigh, NC – June 4, 2018 – Armed with a mission to promote and advance the state park systems of America, the National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD), today announced the launch of America’s State Parks 2018 photo contest. The contest, which is open to residents of the U.S. age 18 and over, provides an opportunity to visually share experiences captured at the nation’s state parks over the last year1. The contest returns for a second year after receiving more than 8,000 qualified photo submissions and 105,000 website engagements during its inaugural 2-month run in 2017.

“The outdoor recreation community has been built on the concept of sharing and America’s State Parks photo contest perfectly aligns with that,” said Lewis Ledford, executive director at National Association of State Park Directors. “NASPD looks forward to continuing to offer a forum in which the community can easily connect with each other and share the experiences our state parks have afforded them.”

With focus on highlighting real-life moments and celebrating the marvelous essence of the country’s public lands, the contest encourages amateur photographers to submit photos taken at a state park within the five categories of camping, wildlife, activities, friends & family, and scenic & seasons. Qualifying submissions will be judged on originality, artistic composition, technical quality, and effectiveness of the image in showcasing the best of America’s State Parks.

The contest’s grand prize winner will be awarded a package valued at $2,000, including a 7-day RV rental from Mighway, an innovative RV sharing platform dedicated to connecting RV owners with travelers. Winners will also be selected from each of the contest’s five categories and will each receive a $500 REI gift card. From now until July 31, 2018, interested participants can submit their entries on the official parks photo contest website.

To ensure the delivery of modern, convenient online experiences to its contest entrants, NASPD engaged its trusted partner, AspiraTM, to manage the operations and promotion for the contest. Aspira, seasoned in providing technology and marketing services to park and conservation agencies across North America, will utilize its popular online camping community, ReserveAmerica.com, to increase awareness of America’s State Parks photo contest.

“We’re thrilled to team up with Aspira and Mighway to deliver a strong, convenient, and rewarding experience to America’s State Parks photo contest participants and winners,” continued Ledford. “Together, we look forward to receiving this year’s submissions and with it, celebrating the nation’s state parks.”

Winners of the contest will be announced in September during the National Association of State Park Directors Conference.

About NASPD

The National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD) is devoted to helping state park systems effectively manage and administer their state park system. The mission of the Association is to promote and advance the state park systems of America for their own significance, as well as for their important contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, health and economy. For more information, visit www.stateparks.org.

About Aspira

Aspira provides connected experiences for the outdoor recreation industry. Its comprehensive suite of reservation and licensing technology and service solutions support federal, state, provincial, and local government park, campground, and conservation agencies, conveniently connecting them with outdoor adventure seekers from around the world. Aspira is headquartered in Dallas, TX with nine offices worldwide. For more information, visitwww.AspiraConnect.com.

About Mighway

Labeled the ‘Airbnb’ of RVs, Mighway is an innovative RV sharing platform, raising the bar in service and consumer protection, and connecting RV owners with travelers. While other RV sharing platforms serve more as booking engines, Mighway assists travelers throughout the road trip and often beyond. More than that, Mighway changes the game by offering the option to manage everything for owners as well. For more information, visit www.Mighway.com.

Complete eligibility rules are available at: http://americasstateparksphotocontest.reserveamerica.com/

Great Outdoors Proclamations by President and 50 Governors

Great Outdoors Month® 2017 Proclamations by the President and the Governors.
See the 2017 Presidential Proclamation here.

Special thanks to the American Recreation Coalition for their work to secure and make available these proclamations.  More info about ARC click here.