Congress did not approve a budget before the end of the country’s fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, and the House’s bill extending funding goes only until Dec. 20. As the United States Congress moves ever closer to the time by which it must finalize the 2021 budget or shut down the government (as happened last year), only ten of the 12 appropriation bills have been passed. Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D) has introduced and supported multiple agriculture and public lands priorities as amendments to the package of four appropriations bills (or “minibus”) introduced in the Senate in the past few weeks.
“There is a lot of important work that we should be doing in the Senate. This includes protecting and maintaining our public lands, and expanding overseas markets for our farmers and ranchers,”said Bennet. “I’ll continue to look for every opportunity to move these Colorado priorities forward.”
The amendments to the budget Bennet has supported include:
- Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act: Introduced by Bennet and U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse (CO-2), the CORE Act would protect approximately 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado, establishing new wilderness areas and safeguarding existing outdoor recreation opportunities to boost the economy for future generations. The amendment text is available HERE.
- Agricultural Export Expansion Act: This amendment is modeled after the Agricultural Export Expansion Act, a bill introduced by Bennet and U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.) in May to remove a major hurdle for farmers and ranchers to selling American agricultural products in the Cuban market. The amendment text is available HERE.
- Increased Scrutiny of Oil and Gas Lease Sales Near National Parks: This amendment would require the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to conduct additional review to consider the potential effects of oil and gas lease sales within 15 miles of National Parks on local economies, recreation, and wildlife. It also allows for greater public participation in the lease sale process. The amendment text is available HERE.
- Forest Service Legacy Roads and Trails: This amendment would help address the U.S. Forest Service’s significant maintenance backlog by establishing a program to repair and maintain Forest Service roads, trails, and bridges. It would also improve wildlife habitat by ensuring the Forest Service decommissions unneeded roads and trails and restores degraded habitat. The amendment text is available HERE.
Other Bennet-backed amendments include the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP), which would fully fund CFLRP at $80 million. As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Bennet led the effort to authorize funding to $80 million, but the current minibus only provides $40 million.
Bennet, together with U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) also introduced the Ski Area Fee Retention Act to ensure that the fees generated by ski areas would be retained in the National Forests in which they are generated. This would provide the Forest Service more resources in heavily trafficked forests. The amendment bill mirrors the original bill introduced in June 2019.