S. 25, S. 2123 and S. 2181, Providing Permanent Funding for Conservation Programs from Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Receipts

Jamie Rappaport Clark


May 24, 2000


Mr. Chairman, I appreciate this opportunity to present the Administration's views on S. 25, S. 2123 and S. 2181, all of which in differing detail provide for permanent funding for a variety of conservation programs from Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas receipts. The House two weeks ago passed its version of this legislation, H.R. 701, the "Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 2000", or CARA, which is very similar to S. 2123. I would like to first present the Administration's goals for this legislation, summarize the bills, and then address the specific areas in which the Fish and Wildlife Service is involved and that are under the jurisdiction of the Committee.

The President feels strongly that this is the year to secure permanent funding for State and community efforts to protect wildlife and local green spaces, reinforce Federal efforts to save natural and historic treasures, and expand efforts at all levels to protect ocean and coastal resources.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established to devote a significant portion of the revenues from our offshore oil and gas resources to conservation and outdoor recreation. Historically, as we are all aware, the spending from the Fund has fallen far short of its objectives, which is one of the reasons there has been such a groundswell of support for the new legislation. We believe the time has come to secure permanent funding to ensure that the vision for the Land and Water Conservation Fund is fulfilled, and that this vision is adapted to meet today's conservation challenges.

More specifically, while we believe there must continue to be a strong Federal role in the protection of our natural resources -- particularly resources of national significance for which the responsibility for protection goes beyond the State or local level -- there is a growing need and demand for additional assistance to States, Tribes and communities struggling to preserve green space, restore degraded lands and provide increased recreational opportunities. Natural resource protection is not and cannot be the exclusive role of the Federal Government. Many conservation needs are most appropriately and most effectively addressed at the State or local level, or through public-private partnerships.

The bills before you take this approach -- matching grants for acquisition or easements to protect locally-important lands, matching grants to States to preserve wildlife habitat and protect and restore coastal areas, matching grants to help recover endangered species, grants and technical assistance for urban parks, and matching grants to protect farms and ranches from development -- along with guaranteeing funds for Federal acquisition from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The Administration has several broad goals for the final version of this legislation. We believe it must not impose burdensome or unnecessary restrictions on Federal authority to acquire and protect critical lands; it must ensure that new funding is devoted to purposes consistent with the environmental and conservation goals of the legislation; it must ensure that new funding for wildlife protection be targeted primarily for at-risk and non-game species; in order to provide continuity between Federal and State programs, the Department of Commerce must have appropriate oversight authority for marine or coastal plans, without modifying the existing responsibilities of other agencies, and it must not establish new incentives for offshore exploration or development. We also believe it must provide permanent funding for conservation purposes within a balanced budget framework.

There is a tremendous degree of common ground between the Administration's objectives and the bills pending before the Committee. The Administration is fully committed to working with Congress to achieve these goals. We are pleased that H.R. 701 has passed the House with such a broad bipartisan majority, and that you have scheduled this hearing so quickly after the House action.

This is truly an opportunity, in the words of Theodore Roosevelt, to leave "an even better land for our descendants than it is for us."

In the interest of simplicity, I will address my comments to S. 2123 and S. 2181, as Senator Landreau, the sponsor of both S. 25 and S. 2123, has indicated she and the other cosponsors plan to base their efforts on the latter bill.

Both bills provide permanently appropriated annual funding for a similar but not identical group of conservation programs. S. 2123 provides for $1 billion to be allocated among all coastal states to address the impacts of OCS oil leasing, while S. 2181 provides $365 million for an Oceans and Coastal Conservation Fund and a separate $100 million for impact aid to coastal producing states.

Both S. 2123 and S. 2181 provide the fully authorized amount of $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, to be split 50% for Federal acquisition and 50% for State programs. In addition, S. 2181 provides for $125 million for a new grant program to assist in the conservation of Non-Federal Lands of Regional or National Interest.

Both S. 2123 and S. 2181 provide $350 million for grants to the States for wildlife conservation, to be managed through the existing Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (Pittman-Robertson) program. I will subsequently discuss these provisions in more detail.

S. 2123 provides $100 million for historic preservation, while S. 2181 provides $150 million. S. 2123 provides $125 million for urban parks and recreation recovery, while S. 2181 has $75 million, plus $50 million for an Urban and Community Forest program. S. 2123 has $150 million for endangered species recovery efforts and cooperative conservation easements, while S. 2181 has $50 million for endangered species recovery efforts, $50 million for ranchland protection efforts under the Secretary of the Interior and $50 million each for farmland and urban forest protection efforts under the Secretary of Agriculture.

S. 2123 has $200 million for restoration of degraded Federal and Tribal lands, while S. 2181 has $60 million for Youth Conservation Corps projects, $150 million for National Park Service resource protection, $15 million for coral reef protection efforts under the Secretary of the Interior, with another $15 million available to the Secretary of Commerce for coral reef activities under the Oceans and Coastal Conservation Fund, and $25 million each for Forest Service Rural Development Assistance and Rural Community Assistance programs.

S. 2181 makes funds directly available for Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), but does not include the Refuge Revenue Sharing program. S. 2123 makes up to $200 million in interest on the conservation funds available to supplement appropriations for Revenue Sharing and PILT. It also makes between $40-50 million available annually from interest for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund; this is not covered in S. 2181.

The portions of these programs in which the Fish and Wildlife Service is actively involved and which I understand to be in whole or part within the jurisdiction of the Committee on Environment and Public Works are the coastal impact assistance, the wildlife conservation grants to the States, the endangered species recovery and conservation easement conservation easement
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a government agency or qualified conservation organization that restricts the type and amount of development that may take place on a property in the future. Conservation easements aim to protect habitat for birds, fish…

Learn more about conservation easement
grants; in S. 2123, funding for Refuge Revenue Sharing and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act; and, in S. 2181, the coral reef programs. We are also involved and interested in the Federal portion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and in S. 2123, the Federal Lands Restoration Fund, both of which I understand to be under the jurisdiction of the Energy Committee and which I will therefore not address today.

The two bills take very different approaches to the issue of coastal impact aid. S. 2123 has a large overall program under the Secretary of the Interior, who has jurisdiction over the offshore leasing program and who oversees numerous programs addressing coastal conservation and environmental issues. However, this approach makes only limited provision for the interests of the Department of Commerce, which has several major coastal programs that directly relate to the purposes of the State grants.

Many Senators are familiar with the Department of Commerce's marine programs under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the National Marine Sanctuary Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Oil Pollution Act, CERCLA, the Clean Water Act, the National Invasive Species Act, the Hydrographic Services Act, the Coastal Wetlands planning, Protection and Restoration Act, and Nation Sea Grant College Program Act. You may not be as familiar with the Fish and Wildlife Service's activities and authorities. Commerce will submit a statement for the record setting forth these authorities

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we have jurisdiction over polar bears, walrus, sea otters and manatees, while Commerce has jurisdiction over truly marine species like whales and dolphins. We have shared jurisdiction with Commerce for many anadromous fish such as Atlantic salmon and striped bass. We co-chair with Commerce the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, and the President's budget requests includes over $10 million for Service activities to address this problem.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is statutorily designated to comment on fish and wildlife impacts from Clean Water Act section 404 permits and other water-related development activities under Federal authorization or permit. Over 45% of all threatened and endangered species, virtually all of which are our responsibility, inhabit coastal areas, as do, at one point or another in their life cycle, 85% of all waterfowl and other migratory birds, which are solely under our jurisdiction.

We have a Coastal Program dedicated to conserving coastal habitats for the benefit of fish, wildlife and people, primarily through partnership efforts. Since 1994, we have protected over 166,000 acres of coastal habitat through easements or acquisition, restored more than 46,000 acres of coastal wetlands and 17,000 acres of coastal uplands, and reopened nearly 2,300 miles of coastal streams for anadromous fish. The budget request for this program for FY 2001 is nearly $9,000,000. We also administer the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, which prevents taxpayer subsidies for development in Congressionally-designated undeveloped coastal barriers coastal barriers
Learn more about coastal barrier landforms.

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along the Atlantic and gulf coasts.

We have over 150 National Wildlife Refuges in coastal, bay or estuarine areas in every coastal State, comprising a total of nearly 36 million acres. Through these refuges, we manage and conserve virtually all elements of coastal and coastal-related ecosystems. In the last three fiscal years we have received a total of over $106 million for land acquisition at our coastal refuges. In addition, some of these refuges contain major areas of coral reef resources. We estimate that 1.5 million acres of coral reef resources are under our management and control within National Wildlife Refuges. There are an additional approximately 1.4 million acres of coral reef habitat that occur in the immediate vicinity of these refuges, where we are working in cooperation with State, local and other jurisdictions on conservation efforts.

Under the Coastal Wetlands, Planning, Protection and Restoration Act, we made grants of over $11 million to coastal states last year, and work with the Corps of Engineers and other Federal and State agencies on coastal wetlands restoration in Louisiana. We administer the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, under which funds (also $11 million last year) are earmarked for coastal wetland protection and enhancement grants. One of our major programs, Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration, provides grants to states for both freshwater and marine fishing, fish habitat, and water access projects. In recent years, we have provided an average of over $40 million annually to coastal states for projects related to marine fishing or marine fisheries habitat protection. In addition, we administer under the main Sport Fish program the Clean Vessel Act, which provides grants for pumpout stations for boat toilets, and a new Recreational Boating Infrastructure grant program, both of which benefit both coastal and inland waters. The grant amounts for those programs this year will be $10 million and $8 million, respectively.

In contrast to the divergence on coastal programs, the bills have virtually identical provisions for matching grants to the States for wildlife conservation. We seek only a few changes with respect to Title III. Both bills require an emphasis on species that are not hunted or fished; however, we feel strongly that there should be greater direction that the funds be used for at-risk and non-game species.

These grants, particularly if focused as we request, can be an invaluable tool to help prevent populations of non-game fish and wildlife from declining to the point where they would need regulatory protections such as listing under the Endangered Species Act. Game species have had decades of assistance through the current Pittman-Robertson Act program, which is financed by excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, bows and arrows and related items. While non-game species also receive major benefits from the habitat protection funded by the Pittman-Robertson Act, the primary focus has quite understandably been on game species.

The nation's hunters have long been enthusiastic supporters of this program, and it was their lobbying efforts in the 1930s which led to imposition of the taxes and creation of the program. Regrettably, there has since then not been any consensus on a similar funding mechanism for non-game species.

Apart from the Pittman-Robertson Act, virtually all Federal programs have been devoted towards species that have already declined to the point that they need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. There has been nothing in between, although we have been making efforts in that direction through the Candidate Conservation program; yet this also benefits only species that are on the brink of needing ESA listing. Funding of the magnitude proposed in these bills could have benefits for the Nation's at-risk, non-game wildlife species that would be almost impossible to exaggerate.

In addition to the inherent benefits to fish and wildlife, there are nearly 63 million Americans who watch, feed or photograph wildlife who would benefit from enactment of this program. These 63 million people spend nearly $30 billion annually in the course of their activities. There is therefore a strong economic benefit to be derived from a non-game program.

We urge the Committee to aggressively pursue enactment of this non-game wildlife grant program, and hope that we can work with you to determine the appropriate focus for the program.

We also believe the Tribal governments need to be included in the wildlife conservation grants. As you know, the Administration included within our budget a request for $100 million for non-game wildlife grants to States. Within that, we proposed that 3% of the funds be available for grants to Tribal governments, on a competitive basis, and we would hope that you would consider a similar arrangement.

We are also very concerned about funds for administration of the program. S. 2123 generally provides 2% of available funds for administration of the various grant programs it authorizes, while prohibiting any administrative funds for the non-game wildlife grants. We understand that the prohibition in S. 2123 is a direct outcome of the largely resolved problems which have been identified with administration of our Federal Aid programs, an issue which I understand the Committee plans to take up next month. While we have been assured from the House side, where the prohibition originated, that funding for this program will be incorporated into final legislation, I wanted to alert you to this issue. The program could fail without appropriate oversight and administration, and we need an adequate level of funding for administration if we are to make it work effectively.

S. 2181 does make 2% of Title III funds available for administration of that Title. I would urge you to include provisions for program administration funding within whichever version of these bills eventually emerges.

I would also note that S. 2123 provides that the interest generated on the funds set aside for the non-game grants would be made directly available to the Secretary of the Interior for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. As the Committee well knows, this is one of the most successful and popular conservation programs in the country, and demands for grant monies, with matching funds, far exceed the Federal funds available to make the grants. Through early FY 2000, the $320 million in Federal funds issued as grants under this program have generated over $800 million in matching funds from over 900 partners. Any funding which can be made available for this program will be effectively and efficiently used.

Both bills provide funds for cooperative endangered species recovery agreements. This is one of the most exciting concepts within the legislation, and would prove of tremendous value to our recovery efforts. Recovery, like conservation generally, cannot succeed as a totally governmental effort. Unfortunately, we have had until recently rather limited tools for assisting participation in recovery efforts by non-Federal parties. We began receiving funds for landowner incentive grants towards recovery in FY 1999, the same year our Safe Harbor policy became final. Both of these have proven extremely successful, with the demand for landowner incentive grants far exceeding available funding. Inclusion of a guaranteed funding source in the final version of this legislation is probably the single most effective action Congress could take to speed recovery for listed species.

I would note that S. 2181 makes no provision for participation by the Department of Commerce, in Title IV, the Endangered Species Recovery Fund, nor for any use of the Title II Coastal Stewardship Fund for listed species. Commerce does have jurisdiction over certain anadromous fish species listed under the ESA, including salmon species on the West Coast, and they should have the ability to either participate in the Endangered Species Recovery Fund. Title VII of S. 2123 has participation by both the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce, without any allocation of funds. Absent further Congressional action on this point, the Administration would allocate the funds between the two Departments as part of the budget process each year, and act to ensure proper coordination between the Departments to avoid duplication and waste.

Lastly, we have Refuge Revenue Sharing. S. 2123 provides for the OCS funds to earn interest while awaiting obligation, up to $200 million of which would be available to pay a portion of the costs of the Refuge Revenue Sharing and Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) programs, while S. 2181 provides "such sums as may be necessary" directly from the OCS receipts to "fully fund payments to units of general local governments as provided in this Act". Inasmuch as this portion of the bill is entitled "Payments in Lieu of Taxes", it would appear that S. 2181 would not include Refuge Revenue Sharing.

As you may know, the Refuge Revenue Sharing program was not designed as a Payments in Lieu of Taxes program, but has come to be one in all but name. It authorizes the Secretary to make payments to local governments based on the greater of 25% of revenue generated from the sale of products, privileges and leases on National Wildlife Refuges within their boundaries (not including fees), 3/4ths of 1% of appraised fair market value of the refuge lands, or 75 cents per acre. If refuge receipts are not sufficient to meet the entitlement, Congress is authorized to make up the difference with appropriated funds. If sufficient funds are not available from either source, the payments are proportionately reduced. I would urge you to include the Refuge Revenue Sharing Program with the PILT program in whichever version of these bills emerges.

Mr. Chairman, that concludes my specific comments. The Administration looks forward to working with this Committee and the rest of the Senate to build on the bipartisan spirit shown by the House and to find a way do what the public clearly wants us to do -- leave a legacy of financial resources adequate to protect our Nation's national treasures. I would be pleased to respond to any questions you may have.

Disclaimer: All statements are not the opinions or position of those testifying, rather they are the official positions taken by the Administration.