Americans Support Land Conservation as “Patriotic”, Even As Congress Moves to Cut Funding

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   July 3, 2012
Contact:   Alan Rowsome, 202-429-2643 (desk), 202-285-8134 (mobile), Alan_Rowsome@tws.org
John Garder, P: 202-454-3395, jgarder@npca.org


Americans Support Land Conservation as “Patriotic”, Even As Congress Moves to Cut Funding

Legislation Disregards Overwhelming Public and Congressional Support

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite a new poll in which conservation is described by most Americans as “patriotic,”  and overwhelming support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)—a key conservation program that has protected some of America’s most iconic places in all 50 states—Congress last week  passed on a major opportunity to strengthen the program, and a House committee voted to cut funding to all-time lows. 

Last week, a joint conference committee considering the surface transportation reauthorization bill cut a key provision from the Senate version of the bill that would have provided $700 million to LWCF for each of the next two years, and reauthorized the program through 2022. That same week, the House Interior Appropriations Committee voted to cut LWCF by 80% in the proposed FY2013 spending bill for natural resources.   The transportation bill is on its way to the President’s desk; the spending bill has yet to be considered by the Senate, where a broad coalition of LWCF supporters hope funding will be restored.

The recent congressional actions on LWCF run counter to the  poll results released today by The Nature Conservancy showing that more than four in five of American voters of all political persuasions—Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and Tea Party Patriots alike— say that “conserving our country's natural resources—our land, air and water—is patriotic.” Three-quarters of the American electorate say that “one of the things our government does best” is protecting its “history and natural beauty through national parks, forests and other public lands.”

“Given these poll results”, said Bob Bendick, Director of U.S. Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy, “it appears that conservation policy and funding in our country is beginning to move away from America’s long standing bipartisan conservation tradition and away from what the majority of the American people say they want.  It is difficult to understand why this should be the case since most voters see conservation as an asset to our economy and something we should invest in despite hard economic times.”

“It is ironic that on the eve of Independence Day, Americans of all political persuasions and many heroes in Congress are strongly united in their support for conservation of our lands, water and air, while the actions taken last week sidestep Congress’ responsibility to provide adequate funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund—one of our key tools to protect these resources,” said Jamie Williams, President of The Wilderness Society. “Without using a single taxpayer dollar, LWCF has protected a host of places Americans hold dear—from national parks, forests, trails, and historic sites to state and local parks and community ball fields. Many more could be saved for future generations with adequate LWCF funding.”

“Outdoor recreation and public lands drive $646 billion in direct consumer spending and 6.1 million sustainable American jobs,” said Will Manzer, CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports.  “LWCF protects and provides the open space, parks and trails to fuel this economic engine. Recent actions by the transportation conference committee and the House Interior Appropriations Committee fail to account for the return on investment LWCF provides through our outdoor recreation economy.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is funded by royalties paid for offshore oil and gas leases in waters that belong to all Americans. LWCF uses those funds to protect other important resources for the benefit of the American public— from iconic national parks and wildlife refuges all the way down to local playgrounds and local parks.

"This program is one of the most important management tools for protecting national parks that families know and love,” said Tom Kiernan, President of the National Parks Conservation Association.   “Americans don't want housing developments in the middle of their parks, which is why it's so important for Congress to listen to the people and fund LWCF. It's just good economics, when national parks are supporting more than a quarter million jobs and more than $30 million in spending annually."

“This program brings important recreation opportunities and economic impacts to every state and nearly every congressional district,” said Will Rogers, President of the Trust for Public Land.  “That’s why LWCF enjoys broad bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, as well as among the broader American public.  The common view is that conservation is a basic patriotic value.  And protecting our natural areas, our unique American landscapes, and our nation’s most historic places—from Revolutionary and Civil War battlefields to the Flight 93 Memorial—depends on LWCF.”

“Loss of access is the Number One reason that hunters and anglers stop pursuing our passions,” said William H. Geer, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership climate change initiative manager. “Yet in addition to funding purchases that expand public access to hunting and fishing and conserving habitat for a range of fish and wildlife species, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is a valuable tool for ranching families and communities in maintaining the  economic viability of some of America’s most important working landscapes. Sportsmen urge Congress to change course and ensure that the LWCF is strongly funded—for the sake of our nation’s lands, our economy and our outdoor traditions.

In a bipartisan show of support, 179 House members signed support letters  urging the transportation conferees to include the Senate-passed funding for LWCF in the final transportation bill. In addition, a coalition of more than 1,000 sportsmen, business, recreation, historic preservation and conservation organizations representing millions of Americans had written to the conference committee urging that LWCF funding be retained in the final legislation.

# # #

 The LWCF Coalition comprises conservation, recreation, business, and sportsmen’s groups working together to support the LWCF program in order to meet America’s conservation and recreation needs in the 21st century. For more information on LWCF and the places in each state that have been protected using LWCF funds, visit www.lwcfcoalition.org. 

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