Family Farm Alliance Lauds Passage of Water and Power, WILD Act Provisions in Lands Package
Washington, D.C. – The Family Farm Alliance and its members cheered yesterday’s passage by the House of Representatives of the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47), a broad package of more than 100 public lands, natural resources, and water bills considered in the 115th Congress. This legislation is important to the Alliance, as it addresses title transfers, endangered fish recovery programs, the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, WaterSMART and Bureau of Reclamation transparency. It also includes the Wildlife Innovation and Longevity Driver (WILD) Act, which includes Alliance-supported provisions that emphasize funding for the Fish and Wildlife Service “Partners for Fish and Wildlife” program.
“Some of the provisions included in this package have spanned three or more Congresses,” said Alliance Executive Director Dan Keppen. “Perseverance and hard work by Members of Congress, committee staff, and western water users kept these issues alive for when the right legislative vehicle arrived. The lands package was that vehicle.”
The Senate passed the bill earlier this month, and now President Trump is expected to sign it into law.
The bill permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports state and federal land acquisition, state recreation planning grants, and other outdoor recreational programs. Alliance energies focused on water provisions in the bill that:
- Authorize the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) to convey ownership of relatively uncomplicated transferred works to local operating water entities without further action by Congress.
- Reauthorize the Upper Colorado and San Juan Endangered Fish Recovery Program at $10 million annually for FYs 2020—2023; and
- Require Reclamation to report on transparency of future extraordinary maintenance on both reserved and transferred works.
The bill also authorizes Phase III of the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement Project, an integrated water management program that will continue to boost water storage, increase conservation, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat in the Yakima Basin in Washington.
“Over the last decade, this unique and diverse collaboration has emerged in the Yakima Basin and focused on developing a collective vision for the future of water in the watershed; a future where there is water for farming, water for fish, and water for families even when we have years of less than adequate water supplies,” said Urban Eberhart, Manager, Kittitas Reclamation District, and a member of the Family Farm Alliance Advisory Committee.
The bill further includes the WILD Act, which promotes wildlife conservation, assists in the management of invasive species, and helps protect endangered species.
“Western farmers and ranchers know that partnerships – not top-heavy regulations and litigation- can best provide for real species protections and recoveries. Our members also have strong concerns regarding the need to emphasize the proper management of invasive species,” said Mr. O’Toole. “This bill places priority on the Partners Program and addresses the critical challenges Western water users face regarding invasive species management.”
The Family Farm Alliance testified in support of all these issues over the past several Congresses, and monitored and engaged bill progress through their Washington, D.C. representation.
“Kudos to Mark Limbaugh and the crew at The Ferguson Group for their diligence in shepherding these issues to completion,” said Patrick O’Toole, Alliance president and Wyoming rancher.
A Title-by-Title summary of S. 47 is available here.
The Family Farm Alliance is a grassroots organization of family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in 16 Western states. The organization is focused on one mission: To ensure the availability of reliable, affordable irrigation water supplies to Western farmers and ranchers.