President’s budget would restore full funding to Land & Water Conservation Fund
The President’s budget for 2015 released today contains full and dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), setting the stage for an historic investment in America’s most important conservation program.
The budget restores the promise that a small portion of the revenues derived from offshore oil and gas development are used to make strategic investments to protect America’s irreplaceable natural, historic and recreational outdoor places. $900 million is meant to go toward the LWCF each year, but it has only been fully funded once in its 50-year history.
“The President’s support of strong funding for LWCF is a boon for anglers who rely on access to clean rivers and streams for their sport,” said Lisa Pelly of Trout Unlimited. “We need strong funding for LWCF to protect our land and waters for now and for the future.”
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has conserved land in every state and enabled more than 41,000 state and local conservation projects. However, there is still a backlog of unmet need because the government has diverted $18 billion from the fund to unrelated purposes.
For Fiscal Year 2014, the program received $306 million nationally.
“The close to home outdoor opportunities funded through LWCF make Washington communities places people want to live, work and play,” said Bill Riley, former president of Washington Realtors. “Realtors see every day how much these protected lands matter to families and businesses. I look forward to seeing Congress follow the President’s lead in providing full funding for this program.”
Strong funding for our outdoors protects one of the most fundamental parts of our history, identity, and our economy. Our public lands support $22.5 billion in outdoor recreation retail spend and 227,000 recreation jobs in Washington alone. That is a small portion of the $646 billion in consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs made possible by the outdoors across the country.
“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. “I hope our Congressional leaders will do their part to ensure that Washington’s outdoor priorities receive their due through LWCF this year.”
LWCF is a critical tool used by landowners, small businesses, ranchers, sportsmen, veterans, outdoor recreationists, historical preservationists and conservation organizations to protect America’s public lands and safeguard our shared outdoor heritage for future generations.
In Washington, LWCF has protected icons like Mount Rainier and Mount St Helens in addition to supporting much-needed small town parks in communities like Mossy Rock and Chehalis, and urban recreation areas in places like Spokane and Yakima.
Projects proposed for funding in the President’s budget in Washington state include:
- Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, 126 acres ($500,000)
- Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, 590 acres ($1 million)
- Olympic National Park, 10 acres ($5,220,000)
Additional projects on Forest Service and Forest Legacy Program project lists are expected to be released this week. The budget proposal also includes funding for grants to states to build and improve local parks and trails in rural and urban areas, a portion of which will come to Washington state. The Coalition will follow up with more information once it is released.
Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the nation’s premier federal grant program for conservation and outdoor recreation. The program uses no taxpayer dollars. Instead, $900 million in offshore oil and gas lease revenue is meant to be invested in parks and outdoor recreation opportunities each year. However, a majority of LWCF funds continue to be diverted for unrelated purposes.
About the Coalition
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition is a non-profit citizens group founded in a historic bipartisan effort by former Governors Dan Evans and Mike Lowry. The Coalition promotes public funding for Washington’s outdoors through the state Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Members consist of a diverse group of over 280 organizations representing conservation, business, recreation, hunting, fishing, farming and community interests. The breadth and diversity of the Coalition is the key to its success — no one member could secure such a high level of funding for parks and habitat on its own.