House Committee Passes Bill Securing Funding for Conservation and Recreation Program

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   July 15, 2010
Contact:   Jodi Stemler, Outdoors America, (703) 915-1386 or jodi@stemlerconsulting.com
Tim Ahern, The Trust for Public Land, (415) 710-9095 or Tim.Ahern@tpl.org
Shannon Andrea, NPCA, (202) 454-3371 or sandrea@npca.org


House Committee Passes Bill Securing Funding for Conservation and Recreation Program

WASHINGTON, DC— The House Natural Resources Committee passed legislation today that will provide dedicated funding for land conservation and outdoor recreation by a vote of 27 to 21 under the leadership of Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV).  The provision, included in the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009 (CLEAR Act, HR 3534), would annually fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at its authorized level of $900 million.  At that level, the program would be able to proactively address backlogged conservation and recreation needs at the local, state and federal level. Weakening amendments were decisively rejected thanks to the efforts of Chairman Rahall and the support of many conservation leaders on the committee.
 
“The LWCF was intended to mitigate in part the potential damages from offshore oil and gas production by protecting some of America’s most precious land resources and providing close-to-home recreational opportunities for Americans in every state in the nation,” said Will Rogers, President of the Trust for Public Land.  “Given the tragic situation in the Gulf, the vision behind the Land and Water Conservation Fund is even more relevant than ever and we applaud Chairman Rahall’s leadership for including dedicated funding in the CLEAR Act.”

LWCF is supposed to receive $900 million per year – a drop in the bucket of offshore revenues that typically tally over $5 billion – but each year Congress, has diverted much of the LWCF revenue to other purposes. Full funding has been appropriated only once in the 45-year history of the LWCF, and recently declined to a low of $138 million in 2007. This shortfall has resulted in a land protection and outdoor recreation backlog of unmet funding needs across our National Forests, Fish and Wildlife Refuges, National Parks and other public lands, federal public lands, and state and local parks. In a recent national bipartisan poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and FM3, 85 percent of respondents view the LWCF as more important today in light of the oil spill.

“OCS production has always been predicated on the idea that the depletion of one national, non-renewable natural resource must be balanced by the long-term protection of threatened habitats, beaches, waterways, and other special places across America,” noted Bill Meadows, President of The Wilderness Society.  “As the devastating effects of the BP oil spill demonstrate, OCS production can itself be a major threat to our nation’s already-limited inventory of natural resources. Full, reliable funding of LWCF is needed to provide a fair environmental return to the public, and accordingly, it is time to renew the commitment to conservation through full and permanent funding of the program.”

In spite of rarely receiving its due, LWCF has been instrumental in many of the places that are most dear to us as a nation. From local parks and playgrounds, where kids can get outside to play, to greenbelts and recreational trails that connect and enhance local communities, to state parks that provide hiking, biking, and camping and help to sustain wildlife, to federal public lands used for hunting, fishing, paddling, and our most pristine national parks, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas – LWCF has provided a continuum of conservation that has touched all Americans.

“The CLEAR Act gives the American people the means to shape a healthy future for our lands and waters,” commented Robert Bendick, Director of U.S. Government Relations with The Nature Conservancy.  “We applaud the House Committee on Natural Resources for creating an important piece of legislation that includes full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This fund protects land and water to balance the use of offshore oil and gas resources, ensure clean air and water, and support jobs and local economies. We urge Congress to pass the CLEAR Act without delay to preserve the natural resources that Americans depend upon and treasure.”

“For more than four decades, the promise to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been unkept, but the CLEAR Act would change that,” said Tom Kiernan, President of the National Parks Conservation Association.  “With $17 billion from oil and gas receipts having accumulated in the LWCF trust fund within the US Treasury, but not been spent for their intended purpose, it’s about time. We thank Chairman Rahall and all those who supported this provision for listening to the American people and finally keeping this historic promise to better protect our national parks for future generations to enjoy.”

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The Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition is an informal partnership of national, state and local conservation and recreation organizations working together to support full and dedicated funding for LWCF.  For more information, go to: www.lwcfcoalition.org

 

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