Another effort to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund failed in the U.S. Senate this week, but U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said Thursday that an agreement has been reached to let it go to the Senate floor for consideration in January.
The fund, which comes from offshore oil and gas royalties and is used for trails, parks, landscape protections and other purposes, expired this fall, and efforts have been ongoing to permanently reauthorize it.
Gardner, R-Colo., told the Daily Sentinel Thursday that a bipartisan agreement was reached this week among some Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate on a public lands bill that would permanently reauthorize the fund. But to get it approved this week meant that there was a unanimous consent procedural requirement, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, withheld his support.
However, Gardner said another bipartisan agreement was reached for the fund to be one of the first bills the Senate takes up in January.
"So that is very good news for public lands in Colorado, very good news for a number of bills for Colorado and very good news for the Land and Water Conservation Fund," he said.
Gardner said the January legislation will include a number of public-land provisions of importance to Colorado, addressing wildfire, water supply and sportsman issues and adding forest and national monument acreage.
As considered this week, the public-lands package didn't include the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act, a decade-old proposal currently being pursued by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. It would protect about 61,000 acres in southwest Colorado through a mix of wilderness designation and other land management actions.
It was left out of this week's package due to a lack of bipartisan backing.
Gardner isn't a sponsor of the San Juan bill at this point.
Said Gardner, "I support moving the bill forward. There's some issues that I hope can be resolved. I hope that this bill can pass and receive support from our colleagues."
He said some concerns surrounding water that were raised about the measure have been addressed.
"There are one or two others (issues) that need to be worked out but I'm confident they will be," he said.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., continues to have some concerns about the San Juan bill.
"There is still not local consensus on the San Juan Mountain Wilderness Act," said his spokesperson, Kelsey Mix. "Congressman Tipton is open to meeting with Senator Bennet to discuss how this bill could be improved."