February 01, 2019

S. 47 – The Natural Resources Management Act of 2019


Background: During the 115th Congress, Senators Murkowski and Cantwell drafted legislation combining more than 100 bills relating to public lands, natural resources, water projects, and infrastructure. That package was negotiated with the chairman and ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee. While it did not pass by the end of the 115th Congress, the final version of that package has now been reintroduced as S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act.

Floor Situation: Senator Murkowski introduced the bill on January 8. The bill was read for a second time on January 9 and placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under Rule XIV. Votes on cloture and passage will likely occur in the weeks ahead.

Executive Summary: The bill contains program and project authorizations, land conveyances and exchanges, special land designations, boundary modifications, and new management direction affecting public lands and waters around the country. The single largest authorization generating significant interest is a permanent authorization of the deposit provisions of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which primarily funds and supports acquisition of land by the federal government and a matching grant program to assist states in planning, acquiring lands, and developing facilities for outdoor recreation. Most LWCF funding comes from revenues generated from oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf.


Land and Water Conservation Fund

While S. 47 is comprised of many different bills, permanently authorizing the expired deposit provisions of the LWCF is arguably its single most significant aspect. Originally established in 1965, the LWCF funds land acquisition for outdoor recreation; a grant program to states to plan and develop outdoor recreational facilities; and programs with related purposes such as the Forest Legacy program and the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund.

In fiscal year 2018, LWCF’s total appropriation was $487.6 million. While the LWCF is credited with revenues of $900 million annually, the money can only be spent under appropriations by Congress. Since 1965, LWCF has received $40 billion in receipts, and $18.4 billion of that amount has been appropriated. A total of $11.2 billion went to federal land acquisition, $4.7 billion went to state grants, and $2.6 billion was appropriated for other miscellaneous purposes.

Proponents of permanent reauthorization for LWCF note that stability in land protection and recreation opportunities supported by its funding will help promote the business and economic opportunities that come from tourism from outdoor recreation. Opponents of permanent reauthorization generally object to acquisition of more land by the federal government and the need to maintain the lands the federal government already owns.

Additional Provisions

The individual bills authorizing particular projects and programs among the states came from 50 senators in the 115th Congress. Nearly 90 senators have provisions in the bill when co-sponsors are included.

The individual bills that comprise S. 47 affect a wide range of subjects relating to federal lands. The bill:

  1. Conveys tens of thousands of acres of federal land to state and local governments to promote community and economic development;

  2. Increases access to federal lands for hunting and fishing;

  3. Authorizes studies and surveys to determine the resource value and boundaries of federal land, including historic parks and battlefields;

  4. Designates new wilderness areas while withdrawing other federal lands; and

  5. Designate new national monuments, recreation areas, wild and scenic rivers, and national heritage areas.


Title I – Public Land and Forests

Section 1109 – Maintenance of federal mineral leases based on extraction of helium

Would allow the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to lease federal land for helium production under the same terms as oil and gas leases.

Section 1120 – Red River gradient boundary survey

Directs the secretary of the interior to commission an independent survey to identify the South Bank boundary line of the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma.

Sections 1211-1255 – Emery County public land management

Designates more than 700,000 acres of new wilderness in Emery County, Utah.

Sections 1401-1461 – California desert

Designates over 200,000 acres of new off-highway vehicle recreation areas.

Title II – National Parks

Sections 2301-2303 – New units of the National Park System

Designates three new national monuments at Camp Nelson in Kentucky, Mill Springs Battlefield in Kentucky, and the home of Medgar and Myrlie Evers in Mississippi.

Title III – Conservation Reauthorization

Section 3001 – Reauthorization of Land and Water Conservation Fund

This section permanently reauthorizes the deposit provisions of the LWCF. In addition, it requires that at least 40 percent of LWCF funds be used for federal purposes and at least 40 percent go to the states.

The section also requires that the secretaries of agriculture and interior annually develop a priority list for projects that secure recreational public access to federal land. In making acquisitions, the secretaries are required to consider specific criteria, including management efficiencies, the recreational value of the land, and the significance and urgency of the acquisition.

Title IV – Sportsmen’s Access and Related Matters

Section 4001 – Congressional declaration of national policy

Declares a general policy that federal departments and agencies shall expand and enhance hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting opportunities on federal land, as well as conserve and enhance aquatic systems and management of game species.

Section 4102 – Federal land open to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting

Declares federal land open to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting unless the relevant secretary closes the area in accordance with guidelines (generally, for public safety, administration, or compliance with applicable laws).

Title V – Hazards and Mapping

Section 5001 – National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System

Directs the secretary of the interior to establish a National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System. The system will organize, modernize, standardize, and stabilize monitoring systems currently in place in the United States, including in Alaska, California, and Hawaii.

Title VIII – Water and Power

Sections 8001-8007 – Reclamation title transfer

Allows the secretary of the interior to convey Bureau of Reclamation facilities to transfer eligible Bureau of Reclamation facilities to non-federal entities, including states and Native American tribes.


A statement of administration position on the bill is not available at this time.


CBO’s preliminary estimate is that S. 47 would reduce direct spending by $9 million and increase revenues by an insignificant amount over the 2019-2029 period.