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Posts Tagged ‘Walt Minnick’

Intern and Congress-watcher Jordin Jacobs helps with this report:

Full and dedicated funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund is expected to be considered this week in the context of comprehensive oil spill legislation being considered by the US Congress.

Since its inception in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has helped state agencies and local communities acquire millions of acres of land for conservation, including Idaho’s Sawtooth National Recreation Area. LWCF grants to states have distributed funds to almost every single county in America for over 41,000 projects including parks, sports fields, swimming pools, playgrounds, and trails. LWCF has also funded the protection of over 1.5 million acres of working forests in over 30 states. Idaho Conservation League’s Susan Drumheller tells us that  local BLM has used LWCF frequently for their waterfront acquisitions an North Idaho spots that have benefited from LWCF include Cougar Bay and Blue Creek Bay.

 LWCF is financed largely through revenue generated in oil and gas leasing. When the LWCF was established, Congress intended that a portion of the oil and gas receipts be dedicated and reinvested in conservation assets across the nation in exchange for the environmental risks inherent in developing finite offshore oil resources. However, in most years, due to tight budgets, Congress and various administrations have diverted funds from their intended purpose.

This year, through the oil spill legislation, it may be possible to fully support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. We are hopeful that full and dedicated funding will finally be given to conservation for National Parks, forests, wildlife refuges, parks and recreation projects, and other federal lands.

Since it was enacted, LWCF has been the only conservation offset for offshore oil drilling. This year, of all years, it should be fully funded. Give your member of Congress a phone call this week.

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The League of Conservation Voters just released its 2009 scorecard, grading Congress on environmental votes. As is sadly not unexpected, the Idaho Congressional delegation did poorly. On a 0-100% scale:

Sen. Mike Crapo = 18%

Sen. Jim Risch = 18%

Rep. Walt Minnick = 43%

Rep. Mike Simpson = 21%

However, to look on the (barely) bright side, in a delegation rated among the most conservative in the U.S. by the National Journal, Idaho’s Congressional representatives weren’t the very worst environmentally. In the U.S. Senate, seven delegations scored below 10% (Oklahoma, South Carolina, Kentucky, Arizona, Georgia, Texas and Wyoming). In the U.S. House, four delegations scored below 20% (Wyoming, Montana, Oklahoma, and Nebraska)

Partly, this is due to the universal support the Idaho delegation gave to the omnibus public lands bill which, among many other things, created the Owyhee wilderness in Southern Idaho — the result of a long collaborative effort. 

LCV scored Congress on votes on top priority votes on clean energy and global warming, but also public lands, water quantity and quality, forest management, offshore drilling, wildlife conservation at home and abroad, chemical security and population.

There’s always next year…

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At their excellent website, the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness have an interesting and optimistic glass-half-full take on the recent convening of a “Panhandle Collaborative” to discuss lands and forestry issues in our northern region. The brainchild of Congressman Walt Minnick, the collaborative will attempt, maybe, to sort through the many issues with many stakeholders to come up with some way forward on wilderness, forests, and economic development issues that have been extraordinarily tough to navigate in the past. 

KEA attended the Monday meeting in Sandpoint, and we’re still sorting out our current levels of optimism. But we certainly hope, like our wilderness advocates just north of here, that the momentum and support for the Scotchman Peaks wilderness will not be sidetracked by the many other issues that the collaborative will need to sort through.

UPDATE 11/23 :  Check out the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks no-nonsense (but still optimistic) take on the prospects on the Montana side of the border.

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