U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said today he is hopeful that this week the House of Representatives will pass historic conservation legislation, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, that increases the nation’s natural gas supply by allowing new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico while creating a permanent conservation fund to help create athletic fields, parks and open spaces.
“For 40 years, the conservation community has been trying to establish a permanent fund from offshore drilling that would go to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF),” Alexander said. “This bill takes 12½ percent of the royalties from the new drilling and creates a permanent conservation fund which will be shared by every state to help build parks, athletic fields, and preserve open spaces. To begin with the dollars will be small, but they eventually could amount to as much as $100 million a year.”
Alexander said that since its creation in 1964, the LWCF stateside program has improved parks and forests and helped to create more than 40,000 athletic and playing fields, 12,000 hiking trails, 5,000 campgrounds, 10,000 swimming and boating facilities, and 600 hunting and nature areas. Since 1965, Tennessee has received 170 LWCF grants totaling $67 million in federal dollars to help fund the acquisition of parks, athletic fields, trails, and playgrounds.
Earlier this year, Alexander and Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) introduced the Land and Water Conservation Fund Investment Act, legislation to provide funding annually from future Gulf revenues to the LWCF stateside grants program. They led efforts to get similar language included in the Senate-passed Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, S. 3711.
Alexander, chairman of the Senate Energy Subcommittee, served as chairman of President Reagan’s Commission on the American Outdoors, which recommended a permanent conservation royalty.