WASHINGTON — The valuation process needed to acquire land under the Land and Water Conservation Fund has become increasingly and unreasonably time consuming, both Republican and Democratic senators said during a Senate hearing on Wednesday.
“Appraisals that literally used to be completed in a few months are now under the department’s appraisal and valuation services office taking as much as two years or more,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “How do we fix that?”
The Great American Outdoors Act funds up to $1.9 billion a year for up to five years to provide maintenance and upgrade infrastructure in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreation areas and American Indian schools. Funding for GAOA comes from energy development revenue, specifically royalties from offshore oil and gas. Under the act, the LWCF is permanently provided $900 million annually for conservation and recreation.
Heinrich reminded the subcommittee on National Parks that in order to realize the full potential of the law, funds from the LWCF must be distributed in a timely manner. He said the bottlenecks in this process are testing the patience of “well meaning, willing sellers with a conservation ethic.”
“It ultimately may lead them to sell their properties to be developed as opposed to being conserved,” Heinrich said.
Subcommittee Chairman Angus King (D-Maine) reminded the panel that the Senate will begin considering whether to reauthorize the GAOA next year.
“We have to apply one of my favorite maxims about government, which is ‘does it work and how do you know?’” King said. “I hope you are thinking about the evolution of the definition of success in order to help us in our consideration.”