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Feds Continue to Debate Money for North Dakota's Protected Lands

Millions in federal dollars for North Dakota's public lands hang in the balance as Congress continues to debate the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Millions in federal dollars for North Dakota's public lands hang in the balance as Congress continues to debate the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
November 23, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. – Some of North Dakota's best public spots for hunting, fishing and hiking, including the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, could be at risk of losing about $22 million in federal support.

That's because Congress continues to argue over the future of a massive public lands funding bill.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been around for 50 years, but lawmakers let it expire at the end of September.

Last week, Congress continued the debate. But for Alan Rowsome, senior director of government relations for lands with The Wilderness Society, there's not much to argue.

"You name the state – these projects are incredibly well supported and incredibly popular,” he points out. “And whether it's opening up a new trail or a new hunting access point, you know, they want these dollars and they want these investments to be made, so that their communities are livable and balanced."

At issue is a proposal from Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah that sets limits and restricts LWCF funding.

However, a Senate proposal is calling for a permanent and full reauthorization of the program.

Rowsome says a compromise is needed, and unlike the Senate plan, Bishop's proposal has no bipartisan support.

"It's out of step and out of touch with what most Americans want,” he maintains. “And his proposal, you know, would forever alter a program that isn't broken and doesn't need fixing."

Bishop's plan has come under fire from environmentalists for proposed changes such as redirecting about 20 percent of the LWCF's $900 million back to the oil and gas industry.

Bishop, however, defends the idea. He says the money will pay for education and training programs for jobs in that industry.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND