Obama official objects to GOP conservation bill

Obama official objects to GOP conservation bill
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A top federal official said Wednesday that the Obama administration opposes Republican efforts to reform the nation’s main conservation fund.

The Interior Department's Kristen Sarri objected to the GOP’s proposal to mandate that specific amounts from the conservation fund go to particular purposes.

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The reform package for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), drafted by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob BishopRob BishopOvernight Energy: GOP moves to reform Endangered Species Act GOP takes aim at reforming Endangered Species Act Favoring some of Puerto Rico's creditors over others a mistake Congress should avoid MORE (R-Utah), create minimum funding levels for training oil and natural gas workers, an urban parks program and grants to states, among other provisions.

“The discussion draft represents a departure from the act’s fundamental goals,” Sarri told the committee Wednesday. “It proposes prescriptive limits on efforts to create, protect and preserve public access to some of our nation’s most important outdoor spaces.”

She also objected to the strict limitations on buying new federal land, saying that more than 99 percent of recent land acquisitions under the fund have been to fill gaps in land holdings, saving the government money.

The Obama administration joins most Democrats, environmental groups and numerous Republicans in opposing Bishop’s bill.

“His radical new bill is miles apart from the original intent of the program, which is to conserve places for future generations and increase outdoor recreation opportunities across the country,” Andy French of the League of Conservation Voters said.

Bishop introduced the legislation to answer numerous conservative complaints about the LWCF, including that it gives too much money to the federal government and ignores a massive backlog of maintenance on federal land.

“We have to make sure that the state-side program, the program people like, that has to be emphasized,” Bishop said at the Wednesday hearing.

The federal side of the program, he said, “actually helps fund special interest groups that will buy land … and then after a few months, sell it to the federal government, using these funds to help subsidize their industry and their business.”

Bishop’s bill would require at least 45 percent of the funds go to states, up from what he said is currently 12.5 percent, on average, going to states.

The LWCF’s authorization expired Sept. 30.