|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.