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Conservation IssuesResources 2000 Bill
Needs Cosponsors
Pat Sziber

For more than 30 years, the US has had a vehicle, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), for directing royalties on off-shore oil drilling to purchase land for open space and habitat conservation. But, while there certainly has been no shortfall of oil revenues, these monies have been consistently raided and redirected at the expense of the LWCF.

Full and permanent funding at $900 million per year would greatly enhance the ability of states and municipalities to preserve precious land. The overwhelming success of open space initiatives in New Jersey and elsewhere last November proves that this is what most Americans want. Several pieces of legislation have been introduced which call for LWCF funding, but only the House (H.R. 798) and Senate (S.446) versions of a bill called "Permanent Protection for America's Resources 2000" would assure full and permanent funding to the tune of $2.3 billion. Competing legislation includes some undesirable provisions such as incentives for expansion of off-shore drilling, placement of onerous restrictions on disbursement of funds, and failure to provide funding for endangered species, farmland and open space conservation, and marine ecosystems.

Resources 2000, on the other hand, in addition to fully funding LWCF at $900M, would make half that money available as matching grants to states; distribute $350M to states for development and implementation of comprehensive native wildlife conservation plans; provide $300M for grants to states and private entities for development of restoration and management plans for ocean fish and wildlife; allot $100M toward incentives for endangered species protections by private landowners; $100M for urban parks; $250M for maintenance and restoration work on existing federal lands; $150M for historic preservation; and $150M for farmland and open space conservation.

The final bill is likely to end up a compromise, but conservationists want it to look a lot more like Resources 2000 than the alternative. In order to accomplish this, we need a lot more cosponsors on Resources 2000. As of this writing, only Rep. Rush Holt in our chapter area has signed on.

What you can do: Write or phone Rep. Chris Smith if you live in District 4 or Rep. Bob Franks in District 7 and ask him to sign on as a cosponsor of H.R. 798, which would provide full and permanent funding for LWCF without strings. Tell him this bill is the best opportunity to enable acquisitions to move forward in the NJ Highlands, the Pinelands National Reserve, and areas adjacent to Forsythe and Wallkill NWRs. Also, we should all contact Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Torricelli and ask them to vote for S. 446. Contact information is here.

Note: WCAS has joined 270 other grassroots groups in signing a letter asking Congress to support the Resources 2000 bills. The letter was initiated by GrassRoots Environmental Effectiveness Network (GREEN).

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Last revision: Sunday, October 24, 1999 - 07:21 PM