Bill will Reauthorize Programs Essential for Colorado Communities
Washington, DC - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet is cosponsoring a bill introduced by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and fund the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for six years.
"These programs help provide essential funding for our communities for everything from road maintenance and emergency services to conservation projects to education," Bennet said. "Colorado counties received more than $30 million in PILT funding this year and almost $10 million in SRS funding, which is money that local governments rely on to budget and plan. LWCF has been integral to conserving land, building local parks and trails, and preserving wildlife habitat from the Eastern Plains to Denver to the Western Slope. This bill will provide long-term certainty for these critical programs and ensure that communities have the resources they need ."
The PILT program compensates rural counties for federal lands that cannot be taxed, including parks, forests, Bureau of Land Management lands and wildlife refuges. Funding for each county is determined by a formula and is based on the number of acres of federal land within each county or jurisdiction and the population of that county or jurisdiction. Restoring mandatory funding of PILT not only provides certainty and strengthens rural counties, but also improves infrastructure and public safety funding programs such as county led Search and Rescue operations. Bennet introduced a bill in February to permanently fund PILT and fund the SRS program for three years.
The SRS program was created in 2000 to provide consistent and reliable funding for more than 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools located near national forests across the country. SRS helps pay for schools, roads, and emergency response services in rural counties. This bill would allow a six-year extension to provide certainty for these communities and support the continued diversification of economic development in these regions.
The bill also seeks to reauthorize and permanently fund LWCF. This highly-successful conservation program is set to expire on September 30. Since LWCF's inception, more than $4 billion has been made available to state and local governments to fund over 40,000 projects in the country. Using revenues from offshore oil and gas development, the LWCF provides funding for additions to federal public lands like national parks and funding for urban parks and trails, state parks, and recreation areas. The LWCF is the principal source of funds for habitat preservation, creation of outdoor recreation areas, and protection of special natural, cultural, and historic resources. Bennet introduced a bill in February to permanently reauthorize the LWCF.
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