President Obama’s federal budget for next year would triple the amount of money going into the Land and Water Conservation Fund over 2014, an apt and “historic” anniversary present as the important, effective and unique program turns 50.
Today the administration proposed $900 million for the program in 2015, the maximum amount it can be funded, with $575 million of that going towards padding the borders of national parks, wildlife refuges and what’s termed public forests (presumably national as well as state) and the other $325 million for grant programs that would keep private timberlands growing trees as well wildlife habitat and wetland projects.
Money for the LWCF, which was infamously defunded by a U.S. House subcommittee before ultimately being passed at $306 million for 2014, comes from royalties on oil, gas and other nonrenewable resources, not U.S. taxpayers. According to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, this year’s set aside provided $4 million for mule deer habitat protection and recreation in the Klickitat River Canyon, $3 million for big game and fish habitat in the upper Yakima River basin and $3 million to protect jobs, watersheds and spawning habitat in the Pysht Forest.
The president’s proposal was hailed by Washington’s senior senator, Democrat Patty Murray of Bothell.
“In Washington state, we know better than most that it’s absolutely critical protect our natural resources, not only for the environment, but also for our economy,” she said in a press release. “I’m very encouraged that the president has made such strong commitments to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Puget Sound restoration efforts in his budget request, and I will be workinghard to meet these funding levels in the appropriations process this year.”
Last month, the Big Tent Outdoor Coalition pointed out that outdoor recreation in Washington is big business. Organizers say that $22.5 billion is spent annually in the state, and that supports the jobs of 227,600 while generating state and local taxes of $1.6 billion.
“The President’s budget marks the restoration of honest budgeting, a turning point for the conservation of our nation’s outdoor treasures,” said Joanna Grist, executive director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, in a press release. “I hope our Congressional leaders will do their part to ensure that Washington’s outdoor priorities receive their due through LWCF this year.”
The organization said that proposed projects include:
- Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, 126 acres ($500,000)
- Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, 590 acres ($1 million)
- Olympic National Park, 10 acres ($5.22 million)
Additional projects on Forest Service and Forest Legacy Program project lists are expected to be released this week, WWRC said.