The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved a bipartisan bill that would achieve the long-held goal of fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund while also providing money to help tackle the $12 billion maintenance backlog at America’s national parks, according to a statement from the fund.
Utah Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee both voted against the measure, known as the Great American Outdoors Act.
Romney in a statement to The Times-Independent said he had two reasons for his no vote. For one, he said it calls for “billions in new mandatory spending — funding that Congress didn’t provide for in the budget that would add to the deficit of the debt.”
Romney also said the act requires the federal government to buy “a billion dollars of land” each year. “The majority of land in our state is already owned by the federal government; more federal land purchases would mean depleted tax revenues for our counties and more federal control. I will continue to push for policies that increase local control and input on how Utah’s lands are managed.”
Romney and Lee also introduced legislation they hope will limit the federal government’s future purchase of land in Western states.
But conservation groups in the West have advocated for such a law. In Colorado, which also has a vast amount of public lands, including national parks and recreation areas, such groups believe the Land and Water Conservation Fund would receive up to $900 million annually. In the past, only a fraction of the money has been allocated.
The big beneficiaries would be national parks, which are multiple millions of dollars behind in deferred maintenance, officials say.