Golden Leading 89 Colleagues to Call for Reversal of Trump Administration Rules that Kneecap Public Lands Programs

February 9, 2021
Press Release
After Congress fully funded & permanently reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund last year, Trump DOI issued directives to undercut the program

WASHINGTON — Congressman Jared Golden (ME-02) and a bipartisan group of 89 House lawmakers are writing to Acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega to urge him to immediately reverse a slew of Trump Administration policy changes designed to impede and overburden the nation’s leading public land conservation program. 

The changes, released as part of Department of the Interior Secretarial Order 3388, saddle the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) with cumbersome new restrictions or outright prohibitions on everything from land acquisition to the location of new LWCF projects. The orders clearly violate the intent of Congress and current statute. 

“Together these actions represent an end-run around Congress and a last-minute attempt to put roadblocks in the path of the successful and collaborative locally driven LWCF process.  Many of these unnecessary, unauthorized, and counterproductive changes have been proposed before and rejected by Congress on multiple occasions,” write Golden and his colleagues. 

“Secretarial Order 3388 remains in force. Its guidance to federal agency staff, and state and local partners, continues to be damaging to conservation and recreation access projects across the country, bringing hardship to landowners and limiting opportunities to protect places that otherwise will be lost forever. Overturning the SO and all its ill-advised, changes to the program is of the utmost urgency,” the lawmakers continue. 

Among the new rules being imposed on LWCF funds are: 

  • Limitations on the private property rights of landowners; 
  • Arbitrary geographic requirements regarding federal land acquisition funding, regardless of need/willing sellers in those or other areas; 
  • A near-total prohibition on further conservation and expansion of outdoor recreation within National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Scenic and Historic Trails administered by the Bureau of Land Management; and
  • The limitation of National Parks Service and Fish and Wildlife Service projects to those within existing boundaries as of November 9, 2020, blocking all conservation in newly-designated park and refuge areas.

The rules are clearly inconsistent with Congress’ intent when it passed the Great American Outdoors Act by an overwhelming bipartisan margin last year. The bill, which Congressman Golden helped introduce in the House, provides funding to address the maintenance backlog at Acadia and other national parks, and permanently authorizes and fully funds the LWCF.

Joining Golden to send the letter are Reps. Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Mike Simpson (ID-02), Tom O'Halleran (AZ-01), Steve Stivers (OH-15), Adam Smith (WA-09), Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Grace Napolitano (CA-32), Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Michael Doyle (PA-18), Chris Pappas (NH-01), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Richie Neal (MA-01), Peter Welch (VT-AL), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), Elaine Luria (VA-02), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Diana DeGette (CO-01), Jackie Speier (CA-14), John Larson (CT-01), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Dan Kildee (MI-05), Sean Casten (IL-06), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Jesús G. “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04), Dina Titus (NV-01), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Kurt Schrader (OR-05), Katie Porter (CA-45), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Joe Neguse (CO-02), Bill Foster (IL-11), Susie Lee (NV-03), Danny Davis (IL-07), Kim Schrier (WA-08), Tom Suozzi (NY-03), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Darren Soto (FL-09), Ron Kind (WI-03), Conor Lamb (PA-17), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Rashida Tlaib (MI-03), Annie Kuster (NH-02), Sharice Davids (KS-03), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Deborah Ross (NC-02), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Anna Eshoo (CA-18), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Jason Crow (CO-06), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), John Katko (NY-24), Fred Upton (MI-06), Chris Smith (NJ-04), James McGovern (MA-02), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), William Keating (MA-09), John Sarbanes (MD-03), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Nanette Diaz Barragan (CA-44), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Mike Thompson (CA-05), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Matt Cartwright (PA-08), Julia Brownley (CA-26) and Elise Stefanik (NY-21).

You can read the letter to Acting Secretary de la Vega below.



Honorable Scott de la Vega

Acting Secretary

United States Department of the Interior

1849 C Street NW

Washington D.C. 20240

Dear Acting Secretary de la Vega:

As longstanding bipartisan supporters of conservation, we fought for and celebrated passage of full, permanent funding for the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), America’s premier conservation and outdoor recreation program when the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA, P.L. 116-152) was enacted into law last August. Since then, we have remained engaged in implementation of GAOA through development and enactment of a FY21 spending plan for LWCF in the Interior Appropriations bill. We write today to request that the Department immediately reverse recent actions by former Secretary of the Interior Bernhardt on LWCF that are inconsistent with statute and contradict Congress’s express intent.

Last fall, after submitting FY21 LWCF allocations and project lists to Congress that missed legislated deadlines and ignored other requirements in law, the Department of Interior released Secretarial Order 3388, which placed a litany of new restrictions on Interior agencies and their use of LWCF funds. These include (but are not limited to) state and local jurisdictions being given veto power over federal public land projects, limiting the private property rights of landowners; arbitrary geographic requirements regarding federal land acquisition funding, regardless of need/willing sellers in those or other areas; near-total prohibition on further conservation and expansion of outdoor recreation within National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Scenic and Historic Trails administered by the Bureau of Land Management; and limitation of NPS and FWS projects to those within existing boundaries as of November 9, 2020, blocking all conservation in newly-designated park and refuge areas.

Further harmful changes and restrictions were included in the re-written LWCF Stateside Manual on the very last day of the previous Administration. In addition, the Secretary also announced on January 19th, against Congress’ express intent in the FY20 and FY21 appropriations acts, that he would unilaterally end the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program (ORLP) and divert all of its legislated funding to other, unauthorized uses. Together these actions represent an end-run around Congress and a last-minute attempt to put roadblocks in the path of the successful and collaborative locally driven LWCF process.  Many of these unnecessary, unauthorized, and counterproductive changes have been proposed before and rejected by Congress on multiple occasions. 

Fortunately, the final FY21 appropriations bill included the full list of priority projects for each federal agency and the Forest Legacy Program, sent to Congress per the requirements of the FY20 Interior Appropriations bill in May 2020, as well as a balanced allocation of LWCF funds between federal agency projects and state grants as required by the Dingell Act. While this legislation sets out a positive spending plan for LWCF funds in FY21 under the new Administration, Secretarial Order 3388 remains in force. Its guidance to federal agency staff, and state and local partners, continues to be damaging to conservation and recreation access projects across the country, bringing hardship to landowners and limiting opportunities to protect places that otherwise will be lost forever. Overturning the SO and all its ill-advised, changes to the program is of the utmost urgency.

In order to reverse these actions and proceed with successful implementation of the first year of mandatory LWCF funding, we urge that you:

  • Immediately revoke DOI’s Secretarial Order 3388 in its entirety to reverse the provisions in the order as stated above;
     
  • Repeal the last-minute changes to the LWCF Stateside Manual, immediately reinstituting the prior version while working with stakeholders in a publicly transparent process to update the Manual consistent with good policy and the express intent of the legislation; and
     
  • Demonstrate the Department’s commitment to environmental justice and its legislated obligations by:

o    Overturning DOI’s unlawful last-minute decision to end the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program; and

o    Issuing a new ORLP Notice of Funding Opportunity adhering to the program’s intended purposes.

Appreciating your and the administration’s strong commitment to conservation, LWCF, and the law, we also look forward to seeing the Department’s recommended LWCF full-funding priorities for FY22. We hope and expect your submission to Congress will be more complete, thoughtful, and timely than that of the last administration, and that it will follow the letter and the spirit of the law by providing no less than 40 percent of total LWCF annual deposits for federal agency land conservation, with a similar minimum for the collective suite of state and local grants programs under LWCF, and the remaining 20 percent fully allocated among federal and state LWCF programs based on particular FY22 needs.

Thank you for your attention to the above requests. We look forward to working with you to ensure the successful implementation of LWCF under the Great American Outdoors Act and other statutes.

                                                                        Sincerely,