2001-06-20 National Governors Association

Statement for the Record – Conservation and Reinvestment Act

The National Governors Association (NGA) is pleased that the House Resources Committee is holding a hearing on H.R. 701, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA). On behalf of the nation’s 55 Governors, NGA wants to thank Representatives Hansen and Rahall for their support of this bill and commitment to work together in a bipartisan fashion. With your assistance as well as the help of Representatives Young, Miller and others, we are confident that the House of Representatives will be able to pass this historic legislation this year.

H.R. 701 is predicated on two very important premises: first, the oil and gas resources lying under the sea on the Outer Continental Shelf belong to all Americans; and second, as the nation depletes these nonrenewable resources, it ought to invest the revenues it derives in assets of permanent value to all Americans. These assets include better air and water quality in coastal areas, park and recreation lands and facilities in all states, and fish and wildlife resources everywhere. As the oil and gas resources belonging to all Americans are produced and used, there should remain in their stead a lasting legacy of protected lands; a restored environment; a strong infrastructure of park, recreation, and cultural resources; and healthy communities of fish and wildlife. The Governors have long supported this principle of reinvesting revenues from the development of nonrenewable resources.

Equally important is the principle that a significant share of these investments should be made by state governments rather than by the federal government. Under the current system, these OCS revenues are simply deposited in the general treasury and are diverted to other programs. The pending legislation will ensure that a significant share of OCS mineral leasing revenues is invested in assets important to our people. Officials who live near the resources and the people who utilize them will be responsible for making decisions on how best to reinvest the funds and will be directly accountable for their decisions. Decisions made at the state and local level, with appropriate citizen involvement, often result in better environmental protections and long-term stewardship of the resources.

For reasons of accountability, the Governors also believe it is important that funds under the bills come directly to the Governor for investment in the natural resource priorities of the state. It is the Governor who has the best view of the state’s needs and who is ultimately accountable for addressing those needs. This is equally true for impact assistance under Title I, investment in park and recreation facilities under Title II, and for fish and wildlife priorities under Title III.

H.R. 701 entrusts state officials to make investment decisions with accountability, directs the funding to the states, and affords the Governors the flexibility to target the state’s investments to its unique natural resource priorities with appropriate involvement of citizens and local elected officials. For these reasons, the Governors strongly support H.R. 701.

We note that under H.R. 701 funds will be made available in future years without the need for further appropriation. Making funds available in the future without the need for further appropriation provides much needed stability and certainty in funding. However, it is absolutely essential that important budget problems associated with this approach be resolved. In particular, it is critical that the funds provided to states under this legislation not come at the expense of any other federally supported state programs. The Governors urge you to work with your colleagues on the Budget Committee to avoid all budget offsets that would be required under the Budget Act for such automatic appropriations.

Title I – Impact Assistance and Coastal Conservation

Title I highlights the needs of the coastal areas, which have been severely burdened by development impacts, infrastructure needs, and environmental pressures associated with resource development on the Outer Continental Shelf. H.R. 701 would help those areas remain whole in the wake of the enormous needs stemming from mineral production activities off their coasts. With these coastal funds, states such as Louisiana can move ahead with projects, like protecting the shoreline of Lake Salvador, where erosion is threatening interior wetlands. In Alaska, stream bank erosion is a critical issue in many areas. Not only does this affect the viability of important fish habitat, it can threaten critical local infrastructure. Several local communities hope to utilize Alaska’s coastal funds to restore their stream banks.

Even coastal areas with no offshore mineral production face enormous needs for coastal protection and restoration. Coastal states contain most of the nation’s largest cities, over 200 seaports, and serves as the foundational resource for many sectors of the economy. The coastal zone also provides essential habitat for thousands of species of plants and animals. The sound management of our coastal areas is important to accommodate population growth, the economic vitality of coastal communities, and the economy of the nation as a whole. The Governors applaud H.R. 701 for including over $1 billion in funding for both non-producing states and producing states to aid them in addressing the most critical needs that face their coastal assets.

Title II – Land and Water Conservation Fund

With respect to Title II of the bill, the magnitude of our needs for investment also is enormous. Since enactment of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act in 1954, federal offshore lands have produced more than $122 billion in government revenue. However, for years the Congress has failed to provide states with their authorized share of monies under the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF); the backlog of pent-up demand for park, recreation, and cultural resources is overwhelming. The National Recreation and Parks Association estimates that between 2000 and 2004state and local governments will need over $50 billion to catch up on their backlog of land acquisition, park development and rehabilitation needs. The LWCF funds in H.R. 701 will go a long way towards stemming a growing backlog, and help states get ahead of the curve.

An example of the kind of projects that have been supported by the LWCF is Bellevue State Park in Delaware. Land & Water Conservation Fund assistance was used in 1973 to acquire the park. Since the acquisition, the Division of Parks & Recreation has used LWCF assistance to develop a bikeway, ball fields, fishing access, picnic areas and restrooms accessible to the disabled. The outdoor recreation facilities at Bellevue make it a great park. It is popular among local residents and is a major asset in attracting visitors along the Delaware eastern seaboard.

The Governors recognize that special sensitivity is needed with respect to the federal side of the LWCF, and that the rights of private property owners must be respected in the implementation of conservation and recreation plans.

Title III – Wildlife Conservation and Restoration

When it comes to wildlife, the reinvestment of OCS revenues will give states the opportunity to be proactive in ensuring that we bequeath to our children and grandchildren healthy populations of unique and beautiful species. While states have a statutory responsibility for managing most wildlife, these populations can and do cross boundaries and are a part of the nation’s commonly held assets. All citizens have an interest in the well-being of wildlife populations.

H.R. 701 proposes to fund the Wildlife Conservation and Restoration program at $350 million annually. The Wildlife Conservation and Restoration program was authorized in the 106th Congress on the Commerce, Justice, and State Appropriations bill for fiscal 2001. The program allows states to determine the wildlife species of greatest conservation need and permits states to invest in conserving the species in three ways – through conservation projects, education efforts, and developing wildlife-associated recreation, such as interpretative signs on trails or pullover locations off of the highway to view wildlife. The Governors support this program and the $350 million appropriation that this bill proposes to dedicate to wildlife.

Examples of projects that could be implemented with these funds are projects undertaken by the State of Montana, which will provide Wild Outdoor World magazine for its state’s fourth- and fifth-graders to use as an education tool and another project to improve irrigation water intakes that may be drawing native fish out of rivers like the Yellowstone. In Wyoming, the state has chosen to fill information data gaps for several species in order to provide the state wildlife managers with the information they need to conserve the species. One research proposal hopes to track trumpeter swans from the Greater Yellowstone area to map important habitat and potential conflicts to their recovery. Another would initiate a monitoring program for reptile and amphibian species, many of which are exhibiting serious declines. In implementing these projects, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has noted that the long-term funding mechanism in CARA is an asset to their programs because population trends for species require several years of data to be truly useful. Without guaranteed funding, the viability and the statistical validity of these programs are at question.

Lastly, this steady funding stream will allow states to take a proactive approach to conservation of potential threatened species. Rather than addressing these species once they have been listed as endangered, the states can invest funds as soon as downward trends are detected. Working with private landowners and other stakeholders on a voluntary non-regulatory basis to preclude the need to list the species produces better compliance and conservation results than having the Endangered Species Act regulate such actions. Besides being biologically advantageous, stemming species population declines early is economically prudent since it is less costly than taking action to recover species once they are listed.

Title IV – Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program

The Urban Park and Recreation Recovery (UPARR) program delivers significant benefits to local communities and neighborhoods. Parks and open space in urban areas are critical to the vitality of cities and its citizens. Urban growth is increasing the demand for recreation and the backlog of necessary maintenance and repairs continue to grow. H.R. 701 proposes to expand the UPARR program by amending the definition regarding who is eligible for the grant funds and provides $125 million to continue to implement urban projects. The Governors support this title of H.R. 701.

Title V – Historic Preservation Fund

In 1976, Congress established the Historic Preservation Fund to provide a dedicated source of revenue for the conservation of historic places under the National Historic Preservation Act. The Historic Preservation Fund follows the model of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, using a portion of the proceeds from offshore oil lease revenues to fund the enhancement of non-renewable historic resources.

H.R. 701 rightly includes funding for the Historic Preservation Fund. Any complete conservation program must include the human species along with the natural environment. Historic preservation plays an essential role by making existing neighborhoods attractive places to live. The “Main Street” approach to revitalizing the existing retail cores of small towns uses historic preservation as a part of a comprehensive strategy to stimulate economic development and small businesses.

While Congress has authorized the Historic Preservation Fund at $150 million for the past decade, the states have never been appropriated more than $50 million. The Governors fully support Title V of H.R. 701 and support the funds being distributed to the states rather than held back in Washington D.C.

H.R 701 provides vital predictability to the State Historic Preservation programs. Without the ability to rely on long-term funding, it is difficult for states to launch multi-year capital investment projects, such as converting inventories of historic sites to a geographic information system. Additionally, H.R. 701 allows the states the necessary flexibility to set local priorities and to address small problems before they become big crises. For example, it makes more sense and is less expensive to repair a hole in the slate roof of a historic building today than to delay the investment until a future date. Delaying maintenance and minor repairs due to lack of funding requires the states to later invest far more funds to replace the entire roof or to suffer the loss of the building due to preventable damage.

Summary

In summary, the conservation needs for wildlife management, as well as for coastal and land conservation programs and historic preservation are tremendous. The threats to these resources and the challenges that we as a nation face in caring for these assets in order to share them with future generations will continue unless a lasting and dedicated source of funds is secured. H.R. 701 proposes to make a sound investment by reinvesting OCS revenues into these resources.

We have attached a copy of NGA policy NR-24, entitled “Investing Outer Continental Shelf Revenues,” and ask that it be made a part of this statement. The adoption of this policy at the NGA 2001 winter meeting reflects the importance the Governors place on these issues. The nation’s Governors pledge to do all that we can to work with you and other members of Congress and the administration, to move legislation forward and see it signed into law.

Thank you.

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