Natural Resources bill that provides U.S. territories parity with states sent to Trump
SAN JUAN – The U.S. House of Representatives passed Wednesday S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act, which includes legislation promoted by Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Congress, Jenniffer González Colón, to provide equal treatment to the U.S. territories under the Land and Water Conservation Fund and access to the Marine Turtle Conservation Fund. The bill was sent to President Trump for approval.
The legislation permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and provides “equal, state-like treatment to the U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia under the program for the first time in history,” a release issued by the congresswoman’s office reads.
Colón and the delegates from the other U.S. territories and the District of Columbia had joined to introduce H.R. 4179 – LWCF Parity for Territories and DC Act in the last session.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 was enacted to help preserve, develop, and ensure access to outdoor recreation resources. It created the LWCF as a funding source of federal and state grant programs for recreation planning, acquisition of lands and waters, and facility development. A portion of the State Assistance appropriation is divided equally among the states.
However, under the current statutory formula, the U.S. territories and D.C. together are considered a single state. This “state” share is then divided among the six jurisdictions in accordance with population.
“S. 47 fixes this disparity by including language that provides full, state-equivalent share in yearly grant funding for each territory and the District of Columbia,” the release explained.
The Senate lands package includes language to make U.S. territories eligible to receive federal funding under the Marine Turtle Conservation Fund, which currently only applies to foreign or international organizations.
In 2017, the program provided funding for 53 projects in 38 countries, totaling $2.2 million that was matched by about $3 million in “additional leveraged funds,” according to the release, which added that the amendments to S. 47 would provide Puerto Rico and the territories access to “such funding” in the future.
“At least four of the seven species of sea turtles are found in Puerto Rico’s waters: the leatherback, the hawksbill, the green turtle, and the loggerhead. The inclusion of this language in the lands package will ensure that state agencies and nonprofit organizations on the Island can access federal grants to continue efforts to conserve and protect these magnificent creatures,” Colón’s release reads.