Friends and foes agree: The 50-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund needs a facelift. Created to bankroll conservation projects with royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling, the Fund has long been plagued by political wrangling. Congress is authorized to put in $900 million a year, but often appropriates far less.
In 2015, the Fund's authorization is set to expire for the first time in its history, and lawmakers are sparring over its fate. House Republicans proposed zeroing it out in next year's budget, while the Senate bill would reinstate the full $900 million. "It couldn't be a more stark contrast," says Alan Rowsome, co-chair of the national LWCF Coalition.
Anti-LWCF Western Republicans fear taking on more land than the feds can afford to manage, but some of them nonetheless "fight like hell behind the scenes" for projects within their states, Rowsome says. "The local support is really there," he adds, but "unfortunately the program has been caught up in broader ideological issues."