The U.S. Senate’s $109 billion surface transportation funding bill passed today by an overwhelming bipartisan margin of 74-22. The bill includes provisions to support both Gulf of Mexico restoration and American land preservation, which were added as a two-part amendment last week by a similarly overwhelming margin of 76-22.

“Today, the Senate made a down payment to generations to come by passing the most significant conservation measure in more than a decade. This is a commitment to fix nature’s infrastructure along with roads, rails and tunnels,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “It says we’ll pay for what we broke because we owe it to our grandkids and their grandkids. Let’s celebrate this moment of hope and healing. BP’s penalties will help restore the Gulf Coast under provisions of the RESTORE Act. And Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars will help us live up to our responsibility to be good stewards of our abundant natural resources.”

Yarnold concluded, “Now that the House and the Senate have both expressed overwhelming support for RESTORE Act principles, it’s time to get a final bill to the president’s desk.”

The RESTORE/LWCF amendment does the following:

• Specifically directs 80 percent of Clean Water Act civil penalties resulting from the oil spill to restoration of the Gulf Coast environment and local economies. This could mean as much as $10-20 billion.

• Distributes resources fairly and equitably to the affected Gulf Coast states, allowing them to launch immediate recovery efforts. 

• Ensures that the funds are spent responsibly and for their intended purposes.

• Establishes the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council which will develop and fund a comprehensive plan for the ecological recovery and resiliency of the Gulf Coast.

• Provides $1.4 billion over the next two years for the Land and Water Conservation Fund for acquiring and protecting precious lands across America.

For more information on the RESTORE/LWCF amendment, please contact David J. Ringer (dringer@audubon.org or 601-642-7058) to schedule an interview with David Yarnold or with Audubon’s Legislative Director Brian Moore.

Yarnold’s op-eds on this issue:  http://www.audubon.org/newsroom/press-releases/2012/david-yarnold-demands-bp-fines-go-restore-gulf

and http://conservation.audubon.org/newsroom/press-releases/2011/audubon-president-comments-gulf-coast-restoration-legislation-progress