Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson said he expects funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to be revived when the Senate and the House reconcile budget bills soon.
And he expects provisions that protect livestock ranchers' access to public land will survive.
Simpson the House and Senate are very close to an agreement on the numbers for the Interior and Environment Appropriations Act for 2012. But he said the sticking point may be the dozens of riders and other specific provisions that members of both the House and the Senate tacked on to the bill.
But he said provisions that allow the Bureau of Land Management to transfer permits under the same conditions without retriggering environmental review are likely to stay in as well as his rider that limits a Payette National Forest ruling requiring separation of wild and domestic sheep to that forest alone.
The Payette decision forced several ranchers to get out of the sheep business at a time when it is booming. But the industry sought a time out so that other national forests can’t follow as they test promising vaccines that might resolve the issue.
Simpson said the only answer is for bighorn sheep advocates and the domestic sheep industry to come together collaboratively.
“We need to start solving problems together,” he said.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is used by states, local communities and federal agencies for a wide variety of projects. Many western Republicans see it as simply a too to allow the federal government to buy more land.
But Simpson pointed to protection of critical areas in Idaho like the south fork of the Snake River near his home in Idaho Falls.
“I happen to be fond of the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Simpson said.