House panel axes popular land acquisition program —

House panel axes popular land acquisition program

By Joel Connelly
Seattle PI

A House appropriations subcommittee has passed out a spending bill that cuts deeply into major federal energy efficiency programs, slashes the Environmental Protection Agency budget, and “zeroes out” a popular acquisition program that has protected key recreation land and habitat across Washington.

The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), paid for by money from offshore oil leases — not taxpayer dollars — has spent $500 million over the past 40 years to protect a variety of places in Washington state.

The Obama administration proposed that it get $600 million for the coming fiscal year. A Senate-passed budget provides $646 million. The House Appropriations subcommittee budget for LWCF: zero.

Dollars from the LWCF have gone to such projects as popular Wallace Falls State Park in Snohomish County, the preservation of Keystone Spit on Whidbey Island, protection of ancient cedar forests on Long Island in Willapa Bay, and creation of a national wildlife refuge along the Columbia River to protect the endangered Columbian white-tailed deer.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., serves on the House Appropriations Committee and its subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

Several of the LWCF’s signature projects in the state — Long Island and the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge — are in her Southwest Washington district.

Herrera Beutler’s office told the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition on Wednesday that the congresswoman was not present at the markup session when the spending plan was adopted, and claimed that she had urged continuation of the LWCF.  She voted against the LWCF in 2011.

“Obviously they (House Republicans) are using the budget crisis to pick on things they don’t like . . . Zeroing out the LWCF is crazy,” said Doug Walker, the Seattle businessman who chairs The Wilderness Society board of directors.  Walker said he hopes Senate budget negotiators will help spare the country “drastic results.”

The LWCF has been “the nation’s main tool to conserve wildlife refuges and parks,” The Herald of Everett wrote Wednesday in an editorial criticizing the proposed axing of the fund.

“This action is indicative of how out of step (the House) is with values of this Washington and across the country,” said Mo McBroom, government affairs director with The Nature Conservancy in Washington State.

Read the complete story at the Seattle PI.

Read the complete story at Seattle PI
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