Tennessee senator Lamar Alexander says he backs a bipartisan effort to continue funding for a popular conservation program that has spent some $190 million to protect natural resources in Tennessee over the past 50 years. The fate of the land and water conservation fund could be decided by congress Thursday. Now the program, funded by offshore oil and gas drilling royalties, is set to expire October 1st. Advocates say dropping the fund would cancel several Tennessee projects. Alexander, a Maryville republican, has a long history of supporting the fund, which typically uses local government matches to buy private property for preservation. Alexander says he hopes to renew the fund before the end of the year.