March 13, 2013
LWCF Coalition lauds senate budget for commitment to outdoor economy, ending chronic diversion of conservation funds
WASHINGTON, DC – In a major victory for land and water conservation efforts across the country, Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) has proposed a framework for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget that – for only the second time in more than 40 years – would enable full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), America’s premier conservation program. This ‘full funding’ commitment, if maintained through the budget process, would fulfill the long-standing American promise that revenues from offshore oil and gas development be used for the protection of parks, open spaces, and trails in communities around the country.
Senator Murray’s legislation, known as the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget, sets overall funding levels for the federal FY2014 budget and, within those levels, assumes the fully authorized level from oil and gas revenues – not taxpayer dollars – will be invested in LWCF, potentially ending the chronic diversion of these funds for unrelated spending.
“Senator Murray is a champion for the outdoor recreation areas, forests, and parks that make Washington State such a great place to live, and that power America’s $646 billion outdoor recreation economy,” said Dan Nordstrom, President and CEO of Outdoor Research, noting that LWCF has been integral to the protection of iconic outdoor places throughout Washington State. “Protecting and assuring the original congressional intent for the LWCF is long overdue. Her proposal restores honesty to the budget by putting a portion of offshore oil and gas revenues where Americans were promised they would go: into the protection of parks, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation opportunities for future generations.”
The principle behind LWCF is simple and uniquely American: of the billions of dollars in annual revenues that come from extracting publicly-held oil and gas resources for private development, $900 million are to be reinvested annually in the permanent protection of parks and open spaces for all Americans. Unfortunately, since the program’s enactment in 1965, Congress has diverted billions of dollars for other non-authorized purposes.
The Senate budget proposal put forward today reflects growing momentum in Congress to correct this problem by ensuring that the federal revenues deposited into LWCF are invested as intended for the benefit of local communities, hunters and anglers, and families. Last week, Interior Secretary nominee Sally Jewell expressed strong support for LWCF, calling it “brilliant piece of legislation” that is “critical in every county across the country.” Bipartisan legislation to fully fund LWCF, S.338, recently introduced by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Wyden, has now gained 22 sponsors, a number which continues to grow.
The Senate resolution, with its commitment to meet conservation needs in communities across America, stands in stark contrast to a budget proposal released yesterday in the House that fails to set aside LWCF’s dedicated revenues. Without these protections and with similarly austere funding levels, the House last year proposed an 84% cut in LWCF investments, despite strong support for these programs among House members across party lines and geographies. While the House budget sets the stage for continued diversion of LWCF revenue in the year ahead, the Senate budget makes a fundamental commitment to honor the promise of LWCF and meet the needs of America’s families, hunters and anglers and the $646 billion annual outdoor recreation economy.
Since its inception, LWCF has helped protect land at some of America’s most iconic and popular places, including our national parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges, where millions of Americans recreate; beaches from Cape Cod, MA and Cumberland Island, GA to Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes; California’s Santa Monica Mountains and Montana’s Glacier National Park; as well as cultural and historic places like the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania and Civil War battlefields and Native American sites.
The program also includes grants to states that support state and local parks and close-to-home recreation areas, working forests and wildlife protection – all of which create and maintain jobs and help communities to attract and keep employers.
Approximately $492 million has been invested in Washington through the LWCF federal and stateside programs over the past four decades, protecting places such as Olympic National Park and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The Outdoor Industry Association has found that active outdoor recreation contributes $22.5 billion annually in consumer spending to Washington’s economy, and supports 227,000 jobs which generates $7.1 billion in wages and salaries and produces $1.6 billion annually in state and local tax revenue. For a fact sheet on LWCF investments in Washington State, visit http://lwcfcoalition.org/files/State%20Sheets/Washington.pdf.
The LWCF Coalition comprises conservation, recreation, business, and sportsmen’s groups working together to support the LWCF program in order to meet America’s conservation and recreation needs in the 21st century. For more information on LWCF and the places in each state that have been protected using LWCF funds, visit www.lwcfcoalition.org.