OLYMPIA, Wash. - Outdoor recreation and conservation groups in the
Northwest are voicing support for a federal program they say has been
under-funded for most of its existence. The Land and Water Conservation
Fund (LWCF) is budgeted to receive $900 million a year from leasing fees
paid by offshore oil and gas companies. Although those fees amount to
billions of dollars, Congress gives the Conservation Fund only a
fraction of what is budgeted.
That could change as part of the new energy and climate bill Congress is
working on. Sportsmen's groups back the idea of making full funding for
the LWCF part of the legislation. Washington Wildlife Federation
President Mark Quinn says it would make an important statement.
"One of the weak links in the whole process is just getting the
collective will of Congress to say, 'This is important enough to say
that we are going to fully fund it every year.'"
Quinn thinks it makes sense to use fees from extraction to help preserve
land and water quality.
"The Gulf oil spill highlights, probably more than anything else, the
need to really do this and the appropriateness of where the revenue
comes from in the first place. And I can't imagine a more appropriate
expenditure of some of that lease revenue than land and water
In more than 40 years, the LWCF has been used for hundreds of projects
in Washington, from parks and trails to fishing piers and wildlife
refuges. However, Quinn notes, it has only received full funding for a
couple of those years. It is administered by the National Park Service.
This week, a new Zogby poll shows that 76 percent of people surveyed
agreed some of the fees paid by companies that drill offshore should be
used to protect natural areas, clean water, and access to outdoor