The transportation package Congress passed June 29 is a mixed bag for conservation.
The good news is the bill includes urgently needed National Flood Insurance Program reforms phasing out unfair, fiscally irresponsible rate policies that subsidize development of open space at high risk of flooding.
The bill also requires dedicating to Gulf Coast restoration 80 percent of penalties BP will pay in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Now, we can begin the job of restoring the marshes and barrier islands that dampen the force of hurricanes and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife. The Gulf Coast is a great economic and environmental asset that urgently needs better stewardship.
The bad news is congressional negotiators dropped the Senate’s proposal to use more of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for its dedicated purposes of financing land acquisition and recreation projects.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund, a ConservAmerica priority, has been a great tool for protecting open space and financing outdoor recreation development for a growing nation. In recent years, however, Congress has been fiscally irresponsible and diverted much of the money collected for LWCF to other uses.
Congress did not heed the 32 House Republicans who asked for the transportation bill to include the Senate’s proposal to spend $1.4 billion from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for its dedicated purposes over the next two years.
Both fiscal discipline and environmental stewardship would have been served by Congress keeping the promise it made to American citizens when LWCF was established in 1965.