GOP Still Blocking The Land & Water Conservation Fund
Posted by Richard Conniff on November 18, 2015
Back in February, I wrote about how Congress has chronically stolen funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Check out that article. It will make you mad. And you’ll be even madder to know that in September, our eminent representatives actually let the law expire, to mark the passage of its unanimous approval by a wiser Congress in 1965.
It’s a law that has benefited every single American community, and yet the relentless, petty, narrow-minded squabbling goes on. Republicans want to minimize use of the fund to acquire and preserve land. They’d rather we spent out money on buying easements from private landowners.
Easements can in fact be more cost effective than outright purchase. But what’s really motivating the Republicans isn’t efficiency or the opportunity for greater environmental and wildlife protection. They’re only interested in minimizing federal influence and maximizing benefits to private property owners, even if it is to the detriment of the recreational and other needs of the American people.
As always, they are all about protecting the 1 percent.
Here’s the latest update from the Land Trust Alliance:
With the Land and Water Conservation Fund expired since September, the House of Representatives is determining the future direction for one of the nation’s foremost conservation
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) recently unveiled a draft bill to reauthorize – and significantly change – LWCF. Among other provisions, his bill limits federal land acquisition – which has for years accounted for about 60 percent of LWCF – to no more than 3.5 percent. This would dramatically impact land trusts’ ability to do federal projects.
On Nov. 17, the bill was the subject of a hearing in Rep. Bishop’s Committee with most Democrats on the committee standing firm that no structural changes should be made and Republicans calling for evaluation/overhaul of the program. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) suggested that one change that needed to be considered is to allow land trusts to use LWCF funds to purchase easements, citing her experience as a former board member of the Wyoming Stockmen’s Agricultural Land Trust.
The Alliance has worked with our Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition partners in support of bipartisan legislation by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that would continue major funding for LWCF and federal land acquisition with only modest changes.
We hope that reauthorization will occur as soon as possible. The path, however, will likely be a long and winding one.