Recent federal Appropriations bill protects LWCF
After a year of uncertainty in the federal funding process, Klickitat Canyon Forest and other conservation and outdoor recreation projects are moving forward thanks to funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in the omnibus Appropriations bill.
The $306 million included in the bill for the LWCF will protect some of the nation’s most iconic places, enhance local economies and increase access to recreation.
“The nation is at risk of losing its premier program to protect parks, forests, trails and waters for our families, the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Joanna Grist, executive director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “This program has always seen great bipartisan support, and with the program expiring in 2015 we need to see a concerted push from our members of congress now more than ever to preserve it.”
Forest Legacy Program maintains private working forests
The Klickitat Canyon Forest near Vancouver has been in timber management for more than 70 years and is critically important to the local economy. Because of the sensational river canyon, Cascade mountain views and plentiful recreational opportunities, this property is vulnerable to subdivision and low-density residential development which would restrict public access and block mule deer migration, in addition to the loss of forestry jobs essential to the local economy.
LWCF funds through the Forest Legacy Program will protect approximately 9,000 acres of working forestland and 5.2 miles of habitat and recreation lands along the Klickitat Wild and Scenic River and maintain a diverse and productive privately-owned working forest.
“Projects like this are a victory for the people who rely on forests for their jobs, rural communities that rely on forests for their economy and recreation, and certainly for future generations who will benefit from Washington’s great natural resources,” said Glenn Lamb, executive director of the Columbia Land Trust. “Conservation easements, like the one that will be used on this forest, keep the land in private ownership and in forestry, while preventing unwanted development.”
The future of the conservation fund
The House Appropriations bill last year included no funding for LWCF. With this legislation, Congress has rejected that attack and has recognized the importance of protecting our outdoor heritage as the program approaches its 50th anniversary.
LWCF will expire in 2015 and will require authorization from Congress in order to continue preserving our nation’s treasured outdoor spaces.
The other Washington conservation projects that were included in the bill include:
- $3 million for Pysht Coastal Forest in Jefferson County to protect productive working forest, supporting local forestry jobs and ensuring watershed protection and critical salmon spawning habitat.
- $3 million for Washington Cascades – Yakima Basin in Kittitas County to protect the headwaters of the Yakima River to ensure water will be available and clean in the future and protect habitat for elk, mule deer, steelhead and bull trout.
The appropriations bill also includes:
- $48 million nationally for the LWCF stateside grants program, a portion of which will go to local parks in Washington State, and
- $27 million nationally for the Cooperative Endangered Species Grants program, which provides grants to help states and private landowners comply with the Endangered Species Act.
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.