2000 Scorecard Vote
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) provides money for federal, state, and local agencies to buy public lands for open space and outdoor recreation, primarily using revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling leases. LWCF funds have helped to purchase nearly 7 million acres of parkland, wildlife habitat, and open space--ranging from Denali National Park in Alaska to the Florida Everglades to California's Big Sur. In addition, more than $3.2 billion in LWCF matching grants have helped states develop parks and local recreation areas enjoyed by millions of Americans. Congress is authorized to spend $900 million dollars each year from LWCF but has consistently diverted large sums from the LWCF account for other purposes. As a result, the fund has an unspent paper balance of more than $12 billion.
Beginning in 1999, Representatives Don Young (R-AK) and George Miller (D-CA) drafted H.R. 701, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA), a bill that would permanently fund LWCF. CARA would also fund state wildlife conservation, endangered and threatened species recovery, coastal conservation, historic preservation, urban parks and recreation, and permanent easements for farm and forest land. In addition, the bill would provide funding for coastal impact assistance to help coastal states mitigate the impacts of offshore oil and gas drilling.
However, as the bill moved through the legislative process, many environmental organizations opposed provisions that they believed would create incentives for new offshore drilling and allow coastal impact assistance funding to be used for environmentally harmful projects. Groups also opposed new restrictions on federal land acquisition funding and charged that CARA failed to ensure that wildlife conservation funding would be strategically targeted to protect species most in need.
During consideration of the bill, Representatives Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced an amendment that substantially reduced incentives for new drilling. By agreement with the bill's managers this amendment passed by voice vote. And while other problems with the bill remained, environmentalists supported passing the bill and using the legislative process to make further improvements.
On May 11, 2000, the House passed H.R. 701 by a vote of 315–102 (House roll call vote 179). YES is the pro-environment vote. In the Senate a similar compromise bill was negotiated between Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Frank Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and passed their committee in July.
By early fall it was clear that Senate leadership was unlikely to allow the bill to go to the full Senate for a vote. House appropriators then negotiated a deal with the White House to provide $12 billion in dedicated funding over the next six years for numerous conservation programs, including federal and state land purchases, conservation of endangered species and other declining wildlife, forest and coastal protection, and preservation of historic buildings and sites. The funding package was included in the final Fiscal Year 2001 Interior appropriations conference report that passed the House and Senate in October and was signed by the President.