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Know the West

A leaking public lands fund

  The Clinton administration recently proposed spending $254 million of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The amount - less than anything proposed by the Bush administration - shocked some environmentalists. They hoped Clinton would tap more of the $900 million that flows each year into the fund, primarily from offshore oil drilling royalties. Environmentalists calculate that some $9.7 billion of unappropriated funds should have accumulated in the fund over its 29-year history, but the money is gone, siphoned off to reduce the federal deficit. Meanwhile, the need to purchase private inholdings in national parks, refuges and forests has increased dramatically, according to The Wilderness Society. That group, in conjunction with 37 others, recently published its annual report, which recommends spending $634 million for new lands in 1995, and sending an additional $158.5 million in matching funds to state governments. The report highlights 250 parcels in 44 states and two provinces that need federal protection. In the West, it targets private lands in places like Utah's Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, New Mexico's Petroglyph National Monument and the Flathead National Forest in Montana. Some lawmakers have heard the envirnmentalists' plea. Sens. J. Bennett Johnston, D-La., and Dale Bumpers, D-Ark., introduced a bill last spring that would send $1 billion to purchase development easements or inholdings for five successive years. For a copy of the 125-page report, Wild Lands and Open Space, Priorities for the Land and Water Conservation Fund-FY'95, write The Wilderness Society, 900 17th St., N.W., Washington, DC 20006-2596 (202/833-2300).