In a significant development, the U.S. Senate has passed a major conservation bill that permanently direct $900 million a year in funding to a long-standing federal program which is aimed at protecting and acquiring public lands.
The 73-25 vote in the Republican-led chamber was a rare bipartisan effort led by Republican Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana, as well as Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Both Senators are up for re-election this year.
Once it becomes law, the bill, The Great American Outdoors Act, will insulate the Land and Water Conservation Fund from the congressional appropriations process and guarantees $900 million a year in annual funding. The source of this fund comes from royalties paid by offshore oil and gas drilling operations.
Although the LWCF was created in 1964, for many years Congress has diverted funding for it to other uses. In 2019, it received $495 million in funding.
The bill will now move to the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats where it is expected to pass.
President Donald Trump has said he would sign the bill into law.