House Should Reject Bill to Remove Land and Water Conservation Fund from Appropriations Process

The House Natural Resources committee is scheduled to markup H.R. 3195 on Wednesday, June 19. The bill would turn the Land and Water Conservation Fund of 1965 (LWCF), which was permanently reauthorized earlier this year, into a dedicated trust fund that is not subject to annual congressional appropriation. While H.R. 3195 was introduced on June 11 by Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (D-N.J.), the committee has not held a hearing on the bill.

The LWCF has been used by state governments to purchase more than 2.6 million acres of private land. The federal government has used the fund to purchase more than 5 million acres of private land (for perspective, an area comparable to New Jersey or Massachusetts). Lands purchased under the LWCF are taken out of productive activity and off the property tax rolls and must be maintained in perpetuity at taxpayer expense.

The four federal land agencies (the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management) own 610 million acres or 27% of the land mass of the United States. The federal estate is in generally poor environmental condition, and the federal land agencies have multi-billion dollar maintenance backlogs.

Director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment Myron Ebell said:

“It is outrageous that this bill is being considered by the House Natural Resources Committee. H.R. 3195 is an affront to the environment and to our system of limited government. If enacted, it would mean that federal and state governments would buy up to $900 million of private land every year forever.

“The federal government already owns far too much land—more than one quarter of the country. The four federal land agencies are poor environmental stewards. The private land that has been purchased under the Land and Water Conservation Fund since 1965 by both the federal government and the states totals more than seven million acres. From an economic as well as an environmental perspective, the federal government should stop buying more land immediately and start shrinking the federal estate by devolving land to the states or by returning it to private ownership.”

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