Following passage in the U.S. Senate by a 73-25 vote last week, the Great American Outdoors Act, which would require automatic annual funding for the Land, Water and Conservation Fund, will be considered by the House of Representatives in late July, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer announced Monday.

Among other things, the fund provides matching grants for state and local parks-and-recreation projects. Since 1970, it has provided $958,000 for 13 projects in Blaine County.

Every year, the fund receives about $900 million in royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling, though only part of that has been appropriated each year for conservation projects. The Great American Outdoors Act would require the money deposited in the fund to be spent for the fund’s purposes, without a need for annual appropriation.

The bill also creates a new National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund for maintenance projects in national parks and national forests and on BLM land, funded by federal revenue from oil, gas, coal and alternative energy development.

 Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, is a co-sponsor of the House bill (H. 7092).

President Donald Trump has expressed support for permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“While I am disappointed that Republicans have indicated they would oppose this bill under suspension, which is why I will bring it to the floor under a rule later in July, I look forward to seeing it pass the House with strong bipartisan support and being sent to the president’s desk to be signed into law,” Hoyer said.

Both of Idaho’s Republican senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, voted against the bill.

According to Risch’s office, the senator voted against the act due to concerns about creating a permanent program with mandatory spending and no annual oversight or requirement for local engagement. The office reported that Risch will continue to support Land and Water Conservation Fund projects in Idaho when there is buy-in from local communities.

Email the writer: gmoore@mtexpress.com

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