U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ken Salazar (D-CO) today introduced the Land and Water Conservation Fund Investment Act, bipartisan legislation to provide $450 million annually from future lease sale area 181 revenues to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) stateside grants program.
Lease sale area 181 is located in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. When the area is open for drilling, oil and gas companies will pay the United States Treasury fees to drill there. This bill would ensure that Treasury allocates $450 million from those revenues to the stateside LWCF.
“When I served on President Reagan's Commission on Americans Outdoors, the wisdom of a conservation royalty was widely recognized,” Alexander said. “The premise is simple: if drilling for oil and gas creates an environmental impact, it makes sense to use some of the proceeds to create an environmental benefit. It also provides a solution for funding conservation efforts in a time of tight budgets.”
“Congress acted on a remarkable vision in 1964 when it promised to reinvest revenues from oil and gas drilling into parks, trails, and open spaces,” Salazar said. “In recent years, we have failed to keep this promise. Now we should recommit to Congress’ vision for the Land and Water Conservation Fund so that LWCF can fulfill its mission and so that we and future generations can continue to enjoy the great outdoors.”
Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1964 to meet America's needs for outdoor recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat conservation and open space. During its first 40 years, the LWCF provided more than 40,000 grants to state and local governments, and LWCF sites can be found in 94 percent of America’s counties.
Since the early 1980s, the LWCF stateside grants program has been consistently underfunded. While funding has declined, demand for conserved areas has dramatically increased. Since the Land and Water Conservation Fund was first established, the population of the United States has grown by more than 40 percent, putting more pressure on open spaces.
Alexander, chairman of the Energy Subcommittee, served as chairman of President Reagan's Commission on Americans Outdoors, which recommended a conservation royalty – using offshore oil drilling revenues to fund fully federal and state conservation programs. Senator Salazar, also a member of the Energy Committee, led the effort to create the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) program, was executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and created the Youth in Natural Resources program.