In a rare display of “bipartisanship”, Congress recently passed one of the most significant public-lands spending bills in half a century. The Great American Outdoors Act will put close to $10 billion toward repairing decaying public-lands infrastructure in our national parks. It also guarantees that Congress will fully fund and spend the $900 million it collects annually through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
While social media has been ablaze celebrating the passage of the bill, the reality is the only reason Mitch McConnell allowed this bill to reach the Senate floor was to prop up the campaigns of Republican Senators Steve Daines and Corey Gardner. Both of whom have historically turned their backs on conservation and now pay lip service.
While a member of the House of Representatives in 2011, Gardner voted in favor of an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have drastically cut the LWCF’s already low funding. In 2015, Daines voted against reauthorizing the program. And in June 2018, hours after participating in a press conference calling for full and permanent LWCF funding, they both voted in favor of a spending cuts package that, among other things, would have slashed $16 million in LWCF funds from the U.S. Forest Service.
The political fortunes for conservation and the environment will likely be better, much better in 2021. Unfortunately, this win’s side effect was the polishing of Daines and Gardner’s poor environmental records and a conservation victory for the worst environmental president in history.
And as far as bipartisanship goes, there were no Democrats in attendance at the bill’s signing ceremony.