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Senate passes $26.2 billion Interior legislation

Wyoming Senators, “Legislation is vital to Wyoming priorities”

July 29, 2005

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Craig Thomas and Mike Enzi (both R-Wyo.) voted in favor of the vital Interior Appropriations Conference Report and worked to ensure that Wyoming, with nearly half of its land federally owned, was given due consideration.

The report is the reconciled version of the previously passed House of Representatives and Senate bills. The Senate passed the report, 99-1. The legislation provides $26.2 billion for Interior Appropriations.

Thomas said, “Because nearly half of the land in Wyoming is federally owned, Interior Appropriations funding is particularly important to our land management needs. The bill funds all of the land management agencies – it impacts our wildlife, our oil and gas development, and the open space we value so much in Wyoming. Multiple-use of our public lands is an extremely important aspect of getting the most for our money,” he said.

“From funding that could help to delist the grizzly bear to money that helps make our national forests healthier to an irrigation project on the Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming will be in better shape because of this legislation,” said Enzi.

One of the top priorities for Thomas was to increase the funding level for Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), which comes from Interior. In addition, he has been a champion for efforts to improve and maintain Wyoming’s national parks as the chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee. PILT funding was approved at $236 million.

Enzi negotiated language that would allow the Wind River Irrigation Project (WRIP) to be eligible for funds under a $7.5 million package for irrigation projects on reservations in Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota. The funds would be available through the Bureau of Indian Affairs and used to reconstruct existing irrigation projects to benefit the Eastern Shoshone and Arapaho tribes, among others.

The Senators were able to garner funding for several important Wyoming projects. The projects include:

• $160,000 for Bureau of Land Management soil survey mapping

• $7.5 million for reservation irrigation projects

• $1.114 million for Grizzly Bear Yellowstone Conservation Strategy

• $1 million for City of Cheyenne Wastewater Treatment Plants

• $150,000 for the Thunder Basin Grasslands Prairie Ecosystem Association

Other projects include:

• $4.114 million for the Madison Wastewater Facilities in Yellowstone National Park

• $11.118 million for the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park

• $11.175 million to replace the Old Faithful Visitor Center in Yellowstone National Park

The money appropriated in the bill will be divided among several different agencies, including:

• $9.93 billion for the Department of the Interior

• $1.78 billion for the Bureau of Land Management

• $1.33 billion for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

• $2.29 billion for the National Park Service

• $2.31 billion for the Bureau of Indian Affairs

• $7.73 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency

• $4.26 billion for the Forest Service

The bill also provides the Department of Veterans Affairs with supplemental funds totaling $1.5 billion to cover unexpected increases in medical costs for veterans in fiscal year 2005.

The bill will now be sent to the President for his signature.