Senators hope to extend Land and Water Conservation Fund
Nov 26, 2014
Central Oregon recently received over $850,000 in grants from fund
By Andrew Clevenger
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators, including Oregon Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, urged Senate leaders to bring legislation to the floor that would reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund before the lame duck session ends.
In a letter dated Nov. 24, the senators asked Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to work to find a permanent funding solution for the 50-year-old program before the 113th Congress adjourns in December.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund uses gas and oil receipts from drilling on the outer continental shelf to conserve national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness and Civil War battlefields, and to develop and support state and local parks. Legislation authorizing the fund to distribute money to various projects will expire Sept. 30, 2015.
The fund “has been the solution to increasing access for hunters and anglers by making public lands public — protecting places that sportsmen enjoy from big game habitat to their own backyards,” the letter reads. “LWCF helps to ensure that our ranchers and forest owners can stay on the land, and that our local communities can have parks and outdoor recreation sites.”
Reid’s office did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
This year, the state Parks and Recreation Department announced that four projects in Central Oregon would receive more than $850,000 in Land and Water Conservation Fund grants.
The projects include improvements to the Crooked River Wetlands Park in Prineville, Tumalo State Park in Bend and Village Green Park in Sisters, as well as the purchase of 2,445 acres as part of a larger 10,000-acre recreation area under development on the Lower Deschutes River by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In the 50 years since Congress created the fund, Oregon has received $263 million.
In July, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the distribution of more than $43 million in Land and Water Conservation Fund money, including $657,659 for Oregon. These funds will be assigned to future projects.
By law, the fund may receive $900 million each year, but it rarely receives its full allotment, and $17 billion has been allocated for other purposes during the fund’s existence.
The letter was signed by six Republicans, 33 Democrats and Independent Angus King of Maine.
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