Early this morning, the Senate joined the House in passing a $1.3 trillion spending package that’s potentially a big win for sportsman. The bill includes landmark funding for conservation, a comprehensive fix to the spiraling costs of fighting wildfires, and reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA).
The FLTFA has been dubbed a “modified land exchange program” and allows the Bureau of Land Management to execute strategic land sales, and then reinvest the proceeds in high-priority conservation acquisitions within or adjacent to federal lands in 11 Western states and Alaska. Established in 2001, it expired in 2011, but not before expanding access in such critical places as the North Platte River Special Recreation Management Area in Wyoming and at Elk Springs in New Mexico.
The new spending bill is now headed for President Trump’s desk for signature before funding lapses at midnight on tonight. However, as of this morning, the President has threatened to veto the legislation.
If signed into law, the package will end the long-maligned practice of the U.S. Forest Service paying for wildfire suppression and recovery from other budgetary line items—like fire prevention and wildlife habitat restoration—when firefighting funding runs out, which tends to happen with the mega fires we’ve seen out West in recent years.
It also freezes the 10-year average cost of fire suppression upon which appropriated funds are based and permits funding costs above that 10-year average using natural-disaster funding. This essentially protects non-fire-related wildlife and public-land dollars from being appropriated during an emergency.