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Environmentalists applaud conservation act

With permanent funding for the conservation of nongame wildlife, species such as the Baltimore oriole can be protected before they are listed under the Endangered Species Act   

May 5, 1999
Web posted at: 12:00 PM EDT

Bi-partisan legislation that would establish a permanent fund for wildlife conservation and related recreation and education programs from a percentage of federal offshore oil and gas revenues is being applauded by environmentalists.

The Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 1999, introduced in both the House and Senate, would send about half of the $4-5 billion in revenues generated from oil and gas leases on the outer continental shelf to the states to fund the conservation activities.

Both versions of the act, S. 25 and H.R. 701, are broken down into three titles:

  • Title I would send about $1.3 billion of annual offshore oil and gas revenues to coastal states for impact assistance associated with oil and gas exploration activities. Monies would benefit such activities as air and water quality programs and wetlands restoration.
  • Title II would reform the Land and Water Conservation Fund to permanently set aside between $700 to $900 million annually for land-based recreation and conservation.
  • Title III would allocate between $320 to $460 million from offshore oil and gas revenues to fund state-level wildlife conservation and related recreation and education.
A broad coalition of environmental groups have formed an umbrella organization called Teaming With Wildlife to support the act's funding for nongame wildlife conservation.

One of the coalition's major concerns is that funding for the act will go down the same path as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is subject to Congress' annual appropriation process.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is written in such a manner that Congress must each year allocate the $900 million set aside for the fund. As a result, the fund is usually shortchanged. Last year, for example, Congress provided just $328 million of the $900 million collected by the fund.

To resolve this issue, Teaming With Wildlife has advocated a permanent, automatic appropriation in Senate and House hearings on the act.

As recently as Tuesday, David Waller, vice president of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in favor of strengthening the Senate version of the act to dedicate 10 percent of the oil and gas revenues for wildlife conservation.

"State wildlife agencies face tremendous challenges attempting to conserve declining wildlife and dwindling habitats, while meeting skyrocketing wildlife conservation education and recreation demands -- all on a shoestring budget," said Waller in support of a permanent fund.

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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Teaming with Wildlife
S.25 Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 1999
H.R. 701 Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 1999
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