The Secretary of the Interior is trying to persuade Republicans in Congress not to eliminate funding for a land conservation program by linking it to another they typically support.
Secretary Sally Jewell held a conference call with reporters to point out the economic activity linked to tourism, energy production and other activities on public land. She put it at more than 13-billion dollars, well above the total budget of 11-point-9 billion for the whole department.
But Jewell expressed frustration with cuts in the budget proposed by the House of Representatives, which would eliminate funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. She’s hoping to link that with money for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, which is popular with members of Congress from rural districts in the West.
“PILT compensates communities when there are federal lands in those communities that are not in the tax rolls," Jewell argued. "So the fact that LWCF goes to support land acquisitions, easements and improvements to public lands is the reason why we suggested linking the two makes sense.”
Oil and gas industry groups such as the Western Energy Alliance say Interior could dramatically increase government revenue from public land if it moved faster on approving existing applications for energy production. It released a study earlier this year that said pending projects just in Utah and Wyoming are worth as much as 15-billion dollars in economic impact.