NPCA submitted the following position to members of the House Natural Resources Committee in advance of a hearing on November 18, 2015.
NPCA strongly opposes the discussion draft of the Protecting America’s Recreation and Conservation Act (PARC Act) because it effectively eviscerates the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), drastically altering the scope and construct of this effective program and diverting needed funds towards other purposes. For the sake of America’s national parks and their hundreds of millions of annual visitors, we instead urge a clean and permanent reauthorization—and full and permanent funding—for LWCF.
LWCF has been a critical conservation tool for the protection of America’s beloved areas within the National Park System for fifty years. In its current form—though underfunded—the program has been effective in protecting 2.2 million acres of strategically identified lands and those with high conservation and/or historic value. LWCF has relied on willing sellers and has prevented incompatible development within units of the National Park System, protecting wildlife habitat, scenic landscapes, public access, areas of historic importance, and more.
The PARC Act does not remotely constitute a reauthorization of LWCF, as it seeks to systematically dismantle the program and, for purposes of federal land acquisition, render it effectively worthless.
The bill diverts some acquisition funds towards the deferred maintenance backlog, which is a priority concern for NPCA. The backlog is unquestionably a critical challenge facing America’s national parks that merits a robust investment through existing appropriations and transportation accounts, as well as supplemental funding. However, changing the scope of LWCF to pay down a small portion of that backlog fails to recognize the many pressing land acquisition needs that warrant funding, and how successful LWCF has been in this effort.
The draft bill also seeks to establish an unneeded formula that diverts important funds away from federal projects, and even more drastically, from projects in the West, where the majority of acreage within the National Park System lies. Valuable state and local recreation projects have already been receiving funding under the current structure of LWCF and would continue to do so through a simple extension of the current program’s funding stream.
There are several other problematic changes within this significant—and damaging—rewrite of LWCF that our staff can provide upon request.
Rather than fundamentally altering this effective program, NPCA urges the committee to withdraw this damaging bill. We instead urge Congress to provide a permanent reauthorization of LWCF in its current and effective form, as well as full funding at its authorized level of $900 million annually. Moreover, in the long term, we recommend a dependable, mandatory funding stream to enhance the program’s utility.
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Senior Director of Budget & Appropriations, Government Affairs