Lawmakers debate fix after conservation fund lapses

WASHINGTON (AP) — A popular program that supports conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the country has expired after Congress couldn’t agree on language to extend it.

Lawmakers from both parties back the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but the program lapsed Monday amid a dispute over whether its renewal should be part of a broader package of land-use bills.

A Senate panel is set to vote Tuesday on a bipartisan bill to permanently reauthorize the fund and ensure it’s fully paid for.

The top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state, sponsored the bill. She calls the conservation fund “the key tool” Congress uses to help preserve recreation opportunities and make cost-effective use of public lands.

Cantwell’s bill has 47 co-sponsors, including six Republicans.