Bishop Puts Conservation Plans in Limbo

Controversy swirls around House Natural Resources Chair Rob Bishop’s decision to allow the Land and Water Conservation Fund to expire, owing to concerns it had strayed from its original purpose.

Reports The Wall Street Journal:

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bishop said he is working on legislation that would restructure the fund so most of the money goes to local communities instead of the federal government.


“Right now, it’s being used as a slush fund to acquire more federal land and helping corporate foundations get rich,” said the spokeswoman, Julia Slingsby.


Other critics say many private homes have been condemned in order to add land to adjoining national preserves, as happened at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore several decades ago, according to Chuck Cushman, executive director of the American Land Rights Association, a landowner-rights group in Battle Ground, Wash.


Conservation projects at risk of losing funding include a plan to acquire land within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where a property owner has proposed building a resort if federal money doesn’t come through to buy it. The Obama administration had included $6 million in conservation fund money to acquire the land in its fiscal 2016 budget request.


The National Park Service had also hoped to use $285,000 from the fund to help acquire private property within Pennsylvania’s Gettysburg National Military Park, which contains the ruins of McAllister’s Mill—part of the Underground Railroad which 19th-century slaves used to escape to freedom.


Among the fund’s supporters in Mr. Bishop’s home district is Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell, who in 2011 initiated talks to buy the Waterfall Canyon Trail property from owner Chris Peterson. His motivation: Utah’s population of three million is projected to nearly double by 2050, and public spaces will be at a premium.