Conservation fund proposals resurface in Washington

Posted: Tuesday, March 06, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Legislative proposals that fueled last year's debate over funding for conservation land purchases and projects in coastal states are beginning to reappear in the nation's capital, including reintroduction of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act authored by Alaska Rep. Don Young.

President Bush last week announced in his budget address that he wants Congress to spend the full amount authorized from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, $900 million.

Two weeks before, Republican Young had quietly resubmitted his proposed Conservation and Reinvestment Act, which not only would direct full use of the conservation fund but also spend an additional $2 billion annually on other programs and projects, mostly in coastal states.

The president's budget also proposes continued funding for several programs established in the Interior and Commerce department budgets last year as an alternative to Young's CARA.

How these elements will align remains to be worked out.

Young no longer heads the House Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over CARA and the conservation fund. But the new chairman, Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, was one of nine original co-sponsors when Young refiled CARA on Feb. 14.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., Young's partner in bringing the bill to a 315-102 affirmative vote in the House, also has co-sponsored the bill again. The Senate didn't take up the bill last year.

Congress has authorized annual spending of $900 million a year from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but it has rarely appropriated that much. The money comes from federal offshore oil and gas leasing revenue.

Young sought through CARA to dedicate the full $900 million, split evenly between the federal government and state programs. Young said the even split would help bring equity to coastal states with offshore oil development, since states with onshore oil development on federal leases already receive half the proceeds under existing law.

Other elements of CARA would direct large sums to coastal states as well, with Alaska expected to receive about $163 million annually.

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