The Land and Water Conservation Fund — created in 1965 — is under attack by Congressional Republicans


From The Washington Post (Juliet Eilperin) via The Denver Post:

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which Congress created in 1965, helped pay for this open space [along I-25 near Monument], along with large swaths of land in other areas across the country. But there is a fight looming in Washington as Congress plans to drastically cut the program’s budget, and President Barack Obama, who had accepted cuts in the past, appears ready to oppose them. The White House has warned it will veto the House Interior spending bill, in part because of its cuts to the conservation fund.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a telephone interview that the bill would bring conservation “as close to zero as it’s been in modern times.” The fund is supposed to receive $900 million each fiscal year out of U.S. offshore oil and gas revenue to pay for federal land acquisitions. But with the exception of fiscal 1998, its funding has consistently fallen well short of that mark. The 2011 operating plan provided $300.5 million, and although Obama asked for $900 million for fiscal 2012, the pending House appropriations bill for Interior allocates just under $95 million…

Roughly half of the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s money goes toward federal land acquisition, while the rest goes to state and local grants that support recreation areas as well as habitat and forest protection. The program is often used to buy isolated parcels of private land within existing parks, refuges and other federal properties, and is combined with matching funds from elsewhere to complete these deals. In part, the program’s obscurity makes it a tempting target for budget cuts. “Nobody’s ever heard of it outside a few dozen people on Capitol Hill,” said Tim Ahern, spokesman for the Trust for Public Land.

Now, the program’s backers are launching a grassroots drive to enlist Republican support for increased funding. Late last month, the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance posted two billboards aimed at Colorado Republicans: one in Grand Junction praised Rep. Scott Tipton for adding $5 million to the program through a floor amendment, while another in Colorado Springs bashed Rep. Doug Lamborn for trying to zero out the program.

In politically conservative Douglas County, where nearly $2 million from the program helped preserve part of the $105 million worth of land between Denver and Colorado Springs, conservative Republicans have demonstrated a willingness to pay for conservation. County residents paid for $21 million in land preservation through a modest sales tax, while proceeds from a state lottery program and money raised by the Conservation Fund, an environmental group, accounted for the rest of it.

More conservation coverage here.

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