Legislative Update: Senate EPW Committee Includes Funding for Federal Lands and Utilities, Omits Byways Funding and Tree Protections

On Wednesday, May 26, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee voted to advance the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act of 2021. The bill included support for two of Scenic America’s key priorities, the Federal Lands Acquisition Program (FLAP) and the undergrounding of utility wires, however, it did not include dedicated funding for the Scenic Byways program or protections for publicly owned trees from cutting for billboard visibility.

G5JYD5 Junction of the Iowa Byways Wilderness Loop and the Loess Hills National Scenic Byway between Kennebec and Castana, Iowa

We are extremely grateful for the leadership and support of Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), who led the effort to provided dedicated funding for Scenic Byways. We are thrilled with the 1,500 members of the Scenic America family who contacted their Senators serving on the EPW committee in response to the action alerts we issued in the last few days.

We are disappointed that Senate EPW did not include funding for the Scenic Byways program, which would encourage economic development and job creation by tying urban, rural, and suburban communities together. This bipartisan and national program delivers these benefits across all 1,234 byways in 49 states and is particularly impactful in rural communities where such investment is critically needed.    

As we continue to advocate for long-term byways funding, we will look to the many Scenic Byways champions in the Senate, including Sens. Padilla, Collins (R-ME), and Reed (D-RI). With their support and others, we hope to get funding into the bill as a Senate floor amendment.

The Senate is only half of the game. The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee is expected to take up their legislation in early June, and we are hopeful to see the inclusion of byways funding in the House legislation. The economic value of the scenic byways, particularly during the uncertain times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, is evident. We urge our supporters whose representatives serve on this committee to take action on this important issue by clicking this link to generate an email urging funding for byways and protections for publicly owned trees.