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e-Journal

  Environmental Policy Issues

Protected Lands Issues
(Released December 1999)

 

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There is a unified objective to conserve natural resources and protect historic sites while providing recreational opportunities for a growing Nation. The systems for achieving these goals are quite varied.

The National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) currently consists of over 90 million acres and is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Refuges have been established generally to preserve natural ecosystems and the diversity of fauna and flora on refuge lands. The mission of the NWRS also maintains that benefits associated with this land be made available to the public. Although controversial, hunting is allowed, and in some cases encouraged, on certain refuges. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress, National Wildlife Refuges: Places to Hunt? (July 28, 1992) provides a brief history of NWRS and discusses the compatibility of hunting with other public uses of refuge lands.

The National Park System encompasses 83.4 million acres of land and is administered by the National Park Service (NPS) of the Department of the Interior. The mission of the NPS is to promote and regulate the use of this land both to conserve it and to provide for their enjoyment by the public. The CRS Report for Congress, National Park System: Establishing New Units (April 16, 1999) outlines the process of new land for inclusion into this system.

The CRS Report for Congress, Land and Water Conservation Fund: Current Status and Issues (June 1, 1999) presents the principal federal source of monies to acquire new recreation lands. Although this fund deals with issues of appropriations and implementation, the concept of the fund has always enjoyed bipartisan support.

© Copyright 1999, All Rights Reserved, CSA

 

CRS Reports

National Wildlife Refuges: Places to Hunt?

Summary

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) manages the 717 units in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The system includes 500 national wildlife refuges, 166 waterfowl production areas, and 51 wildlife coordination areas. According to FWS, the refuges (which make up the vast majority of the system) have been established generally to preserve natural ecosystems and the diversity of fauna and flora on refuge lands. Some refuges have been established specifically to furnish habitat for a single (often endangered) species. Since 1924, hunting has been allowed, and in some cases encouraged, on certain refuges. FWS views hunting (and fishing) as effective resource management tools necessary to control populations and maintain proper ecosystem balance. Many animal welfare activists and some conservationists, however, consider it an anomaly that hunting is allowed on lands set aside to protect and enhance wildlife. This report provides a brief history of the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) and discusses the compatibility of hunting with other public uses of refuge lands.

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National Park System: Establishing New Units

Summary

The National Park Service includes 378 diverse units administered by the National Park Service (NPS) of the Department of the Interior (DOI). The resources of the those units are to be preserved unimpaired for future generations. units generally are added to the National Park System by an act of Congress, although the President may proclaim national monuments on federal land for inclusion in the system. Before inacting a law to add a unit, Congress might first enact a law requiring the NPS to study a prospective area, typically to assess its national significance and other factors. The Secretary of the Interior is required to prepare annually for Congress a list of areas recommended for study, as well as certain lists of areas previously studied. Significant areas also can be preserved outside the National Park System through programs managed or supported by NPS. This report will be updated if the processes, criteria, and concerns change.

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Land and Water Conservation Fund: Current Status and Issues

Summary

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, a special account created in 1964, has been the principal federal source of monies to acquire new recreation lands. Four federal agencies--the Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Forest Service--receive these funds. In addition, the Park Service has administered a matching grants program to assist states (and localities) in acquiring and developing recreation sites and facilities. The fund accumulates revenues from designated sources. These monies become available only after Congress appropriates them. The concept of the fund has always enjoyed bipartisan support.

The policy issues for the fund have changed little in recent years. One issue has been the size of and the need for an annual appropriation. A second issue has been whether and how to revive the state grant program, last funded in FY1995. A third issue is implementation of the 1997 budget agreement between the Clinton Administration and Congress, which provided a one-time appropriation of $699 million from the Fund for two specified land exchanges and other priority acquisitions and exchanges. However, the context for debate changed after legislative proposals for permanent and full appropriations were introduced late in the 105th Congress. The Clinton Administration introduced its "Lands Legacy Initiative" in January and several funding bills have been introduced in this Congress.

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