After a historic monument protection award, questions remain about the future financing of the fund
For conservation groups that have long sought increased investment in America’s public land, victories won’t get much sweeter than Parliament’s passing last week of what advocates call a historic piece of bipartisan legislation.
The Senate has already approved this Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), as long as President Trump signs it as he announced, the 56-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) will finally invest $ 900 million a year on a permanent basis in buying land to pre-house the habitat Protect development and expand public access to the outside world. Proponents consider the program one of America’s best conservation tools, but Congress has routinely scanned it for cash and given it less than half of its intended allocation each year for the past decade.
The GAOA is also creating a new fund to invest $ 9.5 billion over five years to address another long-term priority for conservation and recreation groups: tackling a nearly $ 20 billion backlog of national park infrastructure projects, Wildlife sanctuaries and other federal states.
“The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is simply the most significant conservation investment in decades,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, in a statement. “It is a great win for wildlife, our natural resources, our economy, and all Americans who enjoy the public lands of our America as comfort, recreation and exercise, especially amid this pandemic.”
Yet, while proponents hail the bill as a one-off victory, some are unsettled about the source of funding for its programs: the LWCF draws income from offshore oil and gas activities, and the new maintenance program will use funds from fossil fuel development on state and – water. They view the legislation as a tricky compromise where important efforts to protect wildlife habitats and the space for healthy outdoor recreation rely on the very activities that threaten ecosystems and human health by causing pollution and driving climate change. And with increasing demands on the federal government to halt development of new oil and gas production on public land, GAOA supporters recognize that sooner or later they will have to find another source of funding to keep their conservation programs going.
“Tying something as important as the long-term financial sustainability of our public land to oil and gas production – that is an inherent contradiction,” said Kyle Tisdel, climate and energy programs director at the Western Environmental Law Center. “As we celebrate the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act and we can finally provide long-term funding security for public land, we need to be incredibly aware of the impact of the climate crisis and a heritage on our public land at the same time as oil and gas production.”
The GAOA enjoys broad bipartisan support, but is not without political baggage. Something view the invoice as a power that Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) – who both face tough challenges from Democrats in November in states with large outdoor recreational economies – can advertise to get moderate votes, and when they ‘ being re-elected will help Republicans maintain control of the Senate. And the fossil fuel The industry has liked to highlight its role in paying for conservation efforts. “Please! Oil and natural gas exploration on public land outside of non-wilderness parks will now help meet the growing needs of our national parks.“Said Kathleen Sgamma, President of the Western Energy Alliance, in a statement on the passage of the bill. “Without the license payments made by us, the maintenance expected in this invoice is not possible.”
Sgamma’s testimony lacks the significant role that public land drilling is playing in fueling the climate crisis; a Study 2018 The US Geological Survey found that federally owned fossil fuel production accounts for nearly a quarter of the country’s carbon emissions. Some Democrats want to address this problem by ending the new federal fossil fuel lease – Joe Biden promised to stop new oil and gas permits on public land and water if they are elected president – so that those emissions subside when existing wells eventually stop producing.
If that happens, federal oil and gas revenues will also run dry at some point. Nobody Audubon The magazine the magazine spoke to had a clear idea of how long that would take, but GAOA champions say there is plenty of money to be had to fund the programs for the foreseeable future, even without new leases. Last year the Ministry of the Interior disbursed nearly $ 12 billion from energy generation through the federal treasury, state and local governments, the LWCF and other programs.
Environmentalists have yet to propose a clear alternative funding route, although some say renewable energy royalties could fund at least part of future land conservation. Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center for Biodiversity, suggests that the LWCF should be funded from taxpayers’ money rather than relying on a source outside the Treasury. “It’s one of the few things the federal government does that we need to raise money for,” he says. “We’re not asking this question about funding for the military or funding for prisons.”
For now, the GAOA is promising a much-needed cash inflow, proponents say. “This is the source of funding we have and should be leveraging,” said Nada Culver, vice president of public land and senior policy counsel for the National Audubon Society, which supports GAOA. As long as oil and gas companies benefit from a public natural resource, it makes sense for Americans to reap benefits on public land, she says. “The problem was that it wasn’t fully funded. Public land agencies have historically been underfunded for restoration, maintenance, conservation and science. “
Despite full funding only twice in its history has the LWCF will be credited Help protect world-famous wild places like the Grand Canyon, pay for local parks in small towns and cities across the country, and preserve habitat for endangered and endangered species like Murrelet, Coastal California Gnatcatcher and Red Cockaded Woodpecker. Among other things, these are the reasons more than 850 conservation groups, Local governments and state and regional tourism agencies signed a letter calling on Congress to pass the GAOA, calling it “an unprecedented opportunity for historic victory for the American public and the places they care about.”
While there isn’t yet a clearly articulated, sustainable substitute for fossil fuel revenues, this is no excuse for not reacting quickly to climate change, says Drew McConville, senior managing director of government relations for the Wilderness Society. “We have to take bold steps that move us from fossil fuels to clean energy,” he says. “I’m sure there will be naysayers using parking funding and LWCF funding as an excuse to take action against it. But I don’t see that this is holding back something as important as tackling the climate crisis. “