The bill ignores critical funding priorities like the $11 billion backlog of needed maintenance work in the National Park Service and it shortchanges the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has helped millions of Americans to enjoy parks and ball fields in virtually every county in the United States over the past 50 years. Worse, the Committee may adopt a number of damaging policy provisions or “riders” that have no place in the appropriations process.
Among the riders that The Wilderness Society opposes are:
- A proposed road would cut through the heart of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, which is a biologically sensitive refuge in a designated national wilderness area. The road would cost many millions of taxpayer dollars without improving the efficiency of travel between two local communities, and a road cut through designated wilderness would establish a dangerous precedent.
- The bill would override a court decision that requires the Fish and Wildlife Services to determine whether to list the sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species. By circumventing the scientific and required process, the bill would prevent the FWS from meeting its obligations under the Endangered Species Act.
- The bill would also undercut the Bureau of Land Management rule that ensures that hydraulic fracturing wells on national lands comply with consistent environmental protections. It forces the BLM to accept state or tribal standards even if they are weaker than the BLM standards.
The Senate did restore some funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund during committee consideration. However, the clock is still ticking on the ultimate fate of the program, which must be reauthorized by Congress by September 30, 2015 or its essential provisions will expire. Congress created the program in 1964 to take a small sliver of the royalties from off-shore oil drilling in public waters and invest the funds in parks, balls fields, and conservation projects. Virtually every county in the United States has benefited from the program. Actual funding levels have been erratic over the years because Congress often siphons away LWCF funds and directs them to other spending.
The Wilderness Society is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 700,000 members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org.
Cameron Witten, Government Relations Associate, 202-429-8458, firstname.lastname@example.org