|7:42 PM EDT||
Charles Bass, R-NH 2nd
Mr. BASS of New Hampshire. I thank the Chairman for recognizing me and making it possible for me to offer this amendment at this point in the bill.
This amendment will restore $20 million to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It is offset by a $20 million reduction from the Department of the Interior salaries and expenses. Now, the Department of the Interior salaries and expenses at present are about $250 million, so this would represent roughly a 10 percent reduction in the overhead for the agency. But what do you get for that? You get about an 8 percent increase in the Land and Water Conservation Fund funding.
Now, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as has been mentioned by other speakers, was established 46 years ago in 1965. It was designed as a forward-looking program to preserve critical assets in America for all of us to enjoy.
When you travel around the world, you don't find countries like America that have large parts of our country preserved for public use. Most of the land in other countries around the world is owned privately or by the government and it is not accessible to the public. The LWCF, through its stateside program, its Forest Legacy Fund, has provided countless acres of protected land for public enjoyment.
Now, the fund has, for the last 25 or so years, received most of its funding from offshore oil royalties, and those royalties have averaged anywhere from $7 billion to $18 billion a year. And I have a little table here for the last few years that shows the total royalties and how little amount of money that the Land and Water Conservation Fund takes from these receipts. It is authorized at $900 million. It has been funded of late between $300 million and $500 million. But, my friends, this year
it is funded at less than $70 million.
We Republicans have set as a goal in our principles to reduce the growth of government and to reduce programs to their January 1, 2008, level. What have we done in this appropriations bill? We have reduced this fund to its 1965 level.
I have here another little table that shows the historical funding for the Land and Water Conservation program. There is 1965. We will be lower than that if we don't pass this amendment.
I ask you, my friends, for the sake of the 900,000 Americans who visit these lands during the year, of the millions of dollars spent through the outdoor recreation industry, for those opportunities that we may never see again to make critical purchases and easement purchases of assets that are so important to the future of our country, to raise this appropriation from $68 million to $90 million is a small price to pay for what could be done with those funds.
We need to continue the program of land conservation, local recreation, and, yes, working forests. And a $68 million appropriation just plain doesn't do it.
So on behalf of my cosponsors, I urge you, Mr. Chairman, to support this amendment and make it a part of the underlying bill.
I yield back the balance of my time.
|7:46 PM EDT||
Christopher "Chris" S. Murphy, D-CT 5th
Mr. MURPHY of Connecticut. Mr. Chairman, I join my friend from New Hampshire as one of the cosponsors of this amendment, and I urge House passage.
Let me say at the outset that this is a terrible bill. This is the first time I have come to the House floor to speak on it. It goes without saying that the devastation that this underlying legislation would do to our, frankly, century-long history of environmental protection is almost indescribable. The League of Conservation Voters said simply this: that this bill is the biggest assault on the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the wildlife and wild places we hold dear to ever come before
It rolls back new vehicle emission standards. It guts the Clean Water Act. It defunds the Endangered Species Act. And in the middle of it all, it adds an 80 percent cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. As my friend, Representative Bass, rightly pointed out, it essentially reverses 50 years of investment in land conservation by returning this account back to the 1965 level.
It was a great Republican President, Teddy Roosevelt, who first had the wisdom to understand how integral the open spaces of this country are to what it means to be an American. There is something unique about this country. The views and the vistas are just one part of it. Our identity is wrapped up in the places that we have conserved, the places that we have conserved through the very rightful acts of investment by our Federal Government over the last 50 years, indeed, over the last 100 years.
And it has been Republican and Democratic Presidents, Republican and Democratic Congresses that since that moment of awakening in this Nation have realized this is the right kind of investment for this Nation. It is the right kind of investment because not only does it preserve the character of our Nation, but it does so by leveraging private investment and State investment.
As Representative Bass noted, one of the most important pieces of LWCF is the Forest Legacy Program. That program has conserved 2 million acres around the country. In my State of Connecticut, it has helped conserve 8,000 acres, and it does it by partnering with State resources, with local resources, and with private resources; in my State, often through the generosity of land trusts. This is an incredibly wise investment, as it has been over the years.
And worst of all, this isn't even getting at the larger question of deficit reduction because this account has never been funded through deficits or borrowing. It has been funded through the money that comes from our offshore oil leases.
There are so many horrible cuts in this bill. There are so many reasons for those of us who believe in the concept of environmental protection made real by bipartisan support over the course of the last century to oppose this bill. But this, in my mind, is the worst of it. This is a sad day where we stand today. This is a small, small increase beyond what the Republicans have proposed to cut, but I think it is meaningful in the sense that it is an opportunity for this Congress to come together
and say what dozens upon dozens of Congresses have said since 1965, that it is an American investment to spend Federal money toward the project of land conservation.
I yield back the balance of my time.
|7:50 PM EDT||
Jim Moran, D-VA 8th
Mr. MORAN. Mr. Chairman, I claim time in opposition to the amendment.
The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Virginia is recognized for 5 minutes.