Six West Virginia conservation groups submitted a letter to Sentor Manchin this week asking the Senator to oppose David Bernhardt’s confirmation as Secretary of the Interior. Manchin is a potential swing vote, with a prominent position on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. You can read the full letter here.
Friends of Blackwater, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, West Virginia Citizens’ Action Group, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club all endorsed the letter, which focused on sharp cuts Bernhardt has proposed to popular conservation programs, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has supported conservation projects around West Virginia, and the budget produced by Bernhardt in his capacity as Acting Secretary would put no funds towards the program. Although there are many other issues around Bernhardt’s role at the Department of the Interior, the groups chose to focus on conservation funding, because of the popular, bipartisan work that has been done with LWCF funds in the state. “We are also very concerned with Bernhardt’s poor record on endangered species policy, but the idea with the letter was to find consensus around issues that our legislators care about” explained Friends of Blackwater Executive Director Judy Rodd. Manchin has been a vocal supporter of LWCF and conservation funding.
Update: As of April 4th, we now know that Senator Manchin has voted to confirm Bernhardt. Despite expressing some misgivings in the committee hearing earlier, Manchin was one of two democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to vote in favor. The next step is a vote in the full Senate, which is expected later in April.