Spending Bill Reflects Broad Support for Land and Water Conservation Fund
Seattle, WA — A broad coalition of conservation, business, hunting and fishing groups praised Washington’s House and Senate leaders for providing a much-needed boost to funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in the omnibus spending bill passed this past weekend.
LWCF is the nation’s most important tool for protecting parks, wildlife refuges, recreation areas, and working lands at the federal, state and local level. Thanks to the efforts of Washington’s Congressional leaders, six conservation and recreation projects across the state are now likely to receive funding from the program in 2012.
“We commend Congress for increasing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to $323 million,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “Particularly during this time of difficult budget decisions, this is a clear testament to the diverse, bipartisan support for the program and its proven impacts on Washington’s economy and quality of life.”
Since 1965, LWCF has invested nearly half a billion dollars for state and federal land conservation projects in Washington State. LWCF does not use tax dollars. Instead, it is funded from a small portion of federal revenues from offshore oil and gas leases. The fund uses money from the depletion of one publicly owned resource to preserve other resources that might otherwise be lost.
Under the FY12 budget approved this week, Washington State is likely to receive full or partial funding for six projects. These include requests for:
· $1.5 million for the Washington Cascade Ecosystem project in Wenatchee National Forest,
· $335,575 for the local Klickitat Prairie Park in Mossyrock,
· $109,000 for North Creek Forest in Bothell, and
· $500,000 for Claybell Park in Richland.
Washington is also set to receive part of a $1 million grant for the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail in Washington, Oregon, and California, and $1.1 million for Pacific Northwest stream projects in Washington and Oregon.
The tangible, on-the-ground benefits that LWCF provides to Washington communities led to an outpouring of support for the program from constituents and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. An October poll showed that 88% of voters across the nation favored full and dedicated funding for LWCF.
The Coalition highlighted a bipartisan group of congressional leaders for championing an increase in LWCF funding in an appropriations bill that saw cuts to many other conservation programs. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray have been strong supporters of LWCF in their work on the Senate Finance and Budget Committees. Representatives Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Dave Reichert’s (R-WA) effective bipartisan support and floor amendments in the House increased LWCF funding significantly. And House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norm Dicks’ (D-WA) dedicated work with House leaders and with their Senate counterparts ensured that LWCF received robust and strong funding in FY12.
Robust funding for LWCF is needed now more than ever as local tourism and the outdoor recreation industry are bright spots in difficult economic times, and they depend on access to public lands, waters, trails and wildlife habitat. According to the Outdoor Industry Foundation, active outdoor recreation contributes $11.7 billion each year to Washington State’s economy. In our state, recreation-based activities generate $8.5 billion in retail activity and millions in tax dollars annually while supporting 115,000 jobs.
Despite this strong show of support in the FY12 budget bill, LWCF continues to be funded well below the $900 million that it is authorized to receive annually from offshore oil and gas royalties. The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition will continue to work to ensure that the non-taxpayer funds specifically set aside for this program from offshore oil and gas leasing revenues are used as they were intended: for protection of our national parks, forests, refuges and other public lands, as well as state and local parks.
About the LWCF
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) supports federal acquisition and conservation easements of our nation’s most precious lands and waters, and provides matching funds for state and local entities to acquire and develop recreational opportunities in almost every county of the nation. Created in 1965, the LWCF is authorized to receive $900 million annually in federal revenue from oil and gas leasing of the Outer Continental Shelf. The LWCF, however, has been chronically shortchanged in the annual budget and appropriations process, with funding consistently diverted to other purposes.
About the Coalition
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition (WWRC) is a non-profit citizens group founded in a historic bipartisan effort by former Governors Dan Evans and Mike Lowry. Our members consist of a diverse group of over 250 organizations representing conservation, business, recreation, hunting, fishing, farming, and community interests. Our breadth and diversity is the key to our success–no one member of the Coalition could secure this level of funding for parks and habitat on their own!
What We Do
The Coalition founded the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) grant program in 1989 to address the need to preserve more land for outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat. A state agency, the Recreation and Conservation Office or RCO, reviews, ranks, and distributes the grants through a competitive process that guarantees that only the best new park, habitat and farm projects are funded. The Coalition lobbies the Governor and the Legislature, which sets the funding level and approves the final list of projects. The Coalition also advocates for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.