GOP Fights Obama’s Land Buy Plans
President Barack Obama wants Congress to double spending, to $900 million next year, on a conservation fund used to buy property for the federal government — even though the government already owns three out of every 10 acres in the country.
But Republicans are pointing to a backlog of projects on public lands and vowing to oppose the increased spending for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“I think we should take care of what we have before we acquire more land,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
And Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told Interior Secretary Ken Salazar at a recent hearing that the agencies managing public lands already have “a multibillion-dollar maintenance backlog,” the Miami Herald reported.
“It begs the question of how you can place such a high priority on acquiring more land when you have to cut the very funds you need to take care of your current infrastructure in order to do it.”
The Land and Water Conservation Fund was created in 1965 and is funded with fees charged to oil and gas companies for extracting resources from public lands. Since then the fund has been used to buy more than 4.5 million acres, costing $6.1 billion.
The federal government now owns 635 million acres, the largest chunk in Alaska.
Backers of the fund say Congress needs to continue contributing to it because the country loses about 3 million acres to development each year, according to the Herald.
The National Park Service has identified 1.8 million acres that it wants to buy, with a price tag of $1.9 billion.
But Hastings predicted that “the appropriations committee will not look favorably” on Obama’s spending plan.
“They will probably cut that back a great deal.”