Interior officials push for conservation funding

Leaders in the Interior Department are touring the country this week to build support for fixes to a fund that pays for conservation efforts.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund uses money from offshore oil and gas drilling leases to pay for parks, wildlife refuges, recreation and other conservation efforts, both within the federal government and in partnership with states and municipalities.

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But ever since it was authorized at $900 million 50 years ago, the drilling fees have never reached the $900 million mark.

“In other words, the American public — ranchers, sportsmen, outdoor enthusiasts, and city-dwellers alike — have all been shorted,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told reporters Monday.

The Obama administration is pushing a proposal, outlined in the president’s 2015 budget request, that would use a combination of new appropriated money and changes in the fund’s authorization to eventually bring it back to $900 million.

In addition, the fund’s authorization runs out next year, so Interior officials are pushing for its reauthorization.

“Without action from Congress, it will disappear in a year,” Jewell said. “It is urgent that Congress act now to reauthorize the fund.”

The conservation fund has paid for acquiring land, building trails, protecting historic battlefields and maintaining facilities, among other uses.

Interior leaders will speak at events this week in areas that rely on the conservation funding around the country.

Jewell’s travels this week will bring her to events in Fort Worth, Texas, Birmingham, Ala., and Richmond, Va.

Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Connor, Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe and Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze will travel to Oregon, Florida and Alaska.

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