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Los Angeles Times: Moment of bipartisanship in Congress could mean good news for conservation

February 22, 2019

For all the good things contained in the Natural Resources Management Act, it is most surprising for its scope and for the stunning breadth of bipartisan support it received in a Senate that has been hopelessly divided on just about every important business that comes before it. In that regard, the act’s passage feels like a flashback to the days of horse-trading, back-scratching and compromise that moved legislation forward.

The measure would make permanent the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which previously had to be re-authorized every few years. The program, which lapsed due to congressional inaction last year, uses revenues from oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf to acquire and support public lands and outdoor recreation.

Making the fund permanent is the right move, though the bill doesn’t go quite far enough because it wouldn’t require the revenues actually to be spent for the intended purpose. Only half of about $40 billion raised since 1965 has been spent on conservation efforts; Congress has redirected the rest for other uses.

That’s a bad history, given the $30 billion in deferred maintenance and other needs in national parks and protected areas that advocates say have gone unaddressed. And although the measure offers a reliable revenue stream, it overlooks the point that it is in the nation’s long-term interest to stop drilling and burning oil, so Congress may eventually have to find a fresh source of money as the wells go dry or offline.

But all in all, this is a good, wide-ranging package, and the House ought to take it up quickly and send it along without controversy to the president, who should sign it.

— Los Angeles Times