Don’t Let Irresponsible Members of Congress Kill America’s Conservation Fund
November 9, 2015
Lafayette, New Orleans – The Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club today urged Louisiana’s Congressional delegation not to support legislation proposed by Representative Ron Bishop (R-Utah), the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, aimed at undoing the 50 year old Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has delivered for America for 50 years,” said Haywood Martin, Chair of the Delta Chapter. “It has created thousands of parks and recreational areas for Americans to enjoy, and it works. The Fund has served the country well since its passage in 1964, and has run smoothly. The majority of its monies come from offshore oil production revenues rather than tax dollars, which would seem to guarantee its support from even the most anti-government member of Congress. But in today’s Congress, nothing works well.”
Martin pointed to over 700 state and local projects created in Louisiana with the Fund’s help since its passage in 1964, and major federal areas as well – twelve National Wildlife Refuges and two National Parks. “These federal lands benefit our state economically as well as environmentally. The National Wildlife Refuges provide key public areas for hunting and fishing, in addition to important wildlife habitat. Louisiana’s two National Parks have brought in hundreds of thousands of visitors and millions of dollars of revenue.”
Bishop’s proposed bill would effectively end federal land acquisition by limiting it to no more than 3.5% of LWCF funds, with numerous stipulations designed to make federal protection of lands and waters more difficult. It would divert 35% of LWCF funds to non-conservation purposes, and restrict the remaining amounts severely.
“Representative Bishop is presenting this bill as a ‘back to the states’ measure, which is highly misleading,” said Martin. “Congress already has wide discretion in directing LWCF monies to the states. What it has done instead is routinely divert LWCF funds to other purposes. The budget for this fiscal year is a case in point: President Obama proposed full funding of the LWCF at $900 million, while the House Natural Resources Appropriations Sub-committee proposed $250 million.”
“Representative Bishop has further misrepresented these diverted monies as a ‘slush fund’ sitting around for Congress to tap,” said Martin. “In fact, those dollars have been spent. They’re gone and they’re not coming back.”
Congress’s failure on the Land and Water Conservation Fund began on September 30, when it allowed the law’s authorization to expire. “This was a 25 year authorization, so Congress had plenty of notice,” said Martin. “In fact, there was broad bipartisan support to renew the law. Representative Bishop was instrumental in allowing the expiration to occur by blocking action in the House, and then proposing a bill that would eviscerate the program, which guarantees a protracted fight in Congress.”
Martin called on members of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation not to support Bishop’s proposed bill. “This bill doesn’t help Louisiana. We need our Congressional representatives to look out for our state’s interests, not those of a few extremist members from western states.”
“Sierra Club Calls for Full Funding and Permanent Reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” http://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2015/06/sierra-club-calls-f...
Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, “Bishop Proposal would roll back 50 years of conservation and recreation,” http://www.lwcfcoalition.org/in-the-news/1257-november-5-2015-bishop-pro...
The Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club is the state-wide organization of Club members in Louisiana. Protection of our public lands and waters is a key part of the Chapter’s mission. For more information go to http://www.lasierraclub.org/node