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  • Military Construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016—Motion to Proceed

    by Senator Tom Udall

    Posted on 2015-09-30

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    UDALL. Mr. President, I wish to join several Senators who have come to the floor to talk about the Land and Water Conservation Fund. I know Senator Burr and Senator Daines have spoken, and I think there were several others who spoke about this very worthwhile program that has been on the books for a very long time. I come to the floor to say I support their effort. I support the idea that we should be able to get a unanimous consent request so that we can extend the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

    I thought I would talk first a little bit about the history because my father, Stewart Udall, was one of the people who actually worked with Congress to create the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the 1960s. He worked with Wilbur Mills in the House of Representatives and a number of other Members of Congress. The idea at the time was, here we had this resource--offshore oil--and we were taking a resource that was irreplaceable--the idea that once you use it, it is gone--and we were saying: Why don't we dedicate some of those resources to the permanent protection of land, of parks, for the American people? So that was the idea behind it, and it was endorsed by a nationwide commission of very distinguished Americans who said: We aren't keeping up with the amount of parks and other public lands that our growing population needs. We all knew that the American people loved their parks, and the same is true today.

    So this outdoor commission recommended something along this line of, how do we make sure we are able to create these great national parks and create parks at the State and the city level? So the fund was designed in such a way that there was a State-fund side of the program, and on the State-fund side of the program, you could take dollars that were dedicated to the State program, which would be Federal dollars, and match them at the State and local level and create a Federal park. So in most of your communities today, if you drive around and you see a beautiful park, if you go and look at the plaque, most of the time that plaque will say: Done in cooperation with the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

    What local people have told me many times is that in the planning they do to try to create a new park--they have an area that is growing or they have a housing development that has gone in--they say: How do we get the money? Well, if they know there is going to be a Federal match and they are able to get the Federal money, they can do the planning. They can go to their local taxpayers, raise some funds, and then pool the money together and get a city park or a State park, that kind of thing.

    As everybody knows well, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has funded Federal purchases of land, from our national parks, to national wildlife refuges, to many other public lands. For example, in my home State of New Mexico, we have 14 national parks. We have a brandnew national park that was just put into place within the last year called the Valles Caldera National Preserve, which is one of the newest parks in the country. Here you have about 89,000 acres which is a collapsed volcano that has been used in many different ways in the past but now is available for hunting, fishing, camping, and all sorts of outdoor recreation. So this is something the people of New Mexico know.

    I think the crucial point to make here is the economic one. We don't have any doubt that investments in parks, wildlife refuges, and other Federal lands create many jobs outside those parks. They create jobs in the gateway communities, but they also create jobs in the outdoor industry. We have seen, with two new national [[Page S7027]] monuments that were just created in New Mexico, big economic growth 6 months and a year after the creation of those monuments. So this is about the economic integrity of our communities.

    In less than 11 hours right now on the clock, the Land and Water Conservation Fund could expire. It has been in place for decades, and we could let it expire because of the gridlock here. Well, we aren't going to do that. And why aren't we going to do that? Because we have Members on both sides of the aisle who care about this.

    I would like to say a word about Senator Burr. I have worked with him very well. He is a member of the International Conservation Caucus in the Senate, and he has taken a real interest in conservation around the world and has been a real leader. Senator Burr has been out front on this land and water conservation issue. He has led a letter to various officials that 53 Senators signed that said: We want the Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorized before it expires. He has shown real leadership to make sure that as we approach this deadline, this doesn't happen.

    Senator Burr was on the floor just a few minutes ago. I want to say to him and the other Senators who worked with him that I think it is very important that we continue to work in these last 11 hours to make sure the Land and Water Conservation Fund is continued. Obviously, what we are trying to do right now is a 60-day period, but, as Senator Burr mentioned, the important thing is permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Then the big task we need to get these Presidential candidates to face is we have to have the funding for it. It always had a funding level that was reasonable and rational and supported, but unfortunately we don't ever meet the funding level. The money is there. The money is in the fund. It comes out every year from the offshore oil resources into the fund; it is just taken for other purposes. So we have to make sure we get a permanent Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorization and the funds in that are going to really make a difference.

    Mr. President, I see my good friend Senator Casey from Pennsylvania. I know he is waiting in line, and I am sure you are going to hear some wise words from him.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Wyoming.

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