Senate Passes Budget that Returns Oil and Gas Revenues To Land and Water Conservation

March 23, 2013

Full Funding of LWCF Critical to Outdoor Economy, Ends Chronic Diversion of Conservation Funds

WASHINGTON, DC – In an early morning vote, the United States Senate today passed 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, put forward by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, would fulfill the long-standing promise to the American people that revenues from offshore oil and gas development be used for the protection of parks, open spaces, and trails in communities around the country.

The legislation that passed the Senate today, known as the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget, sets overall funding levels for the federal FY2014 budget beginning October 1 and, within those levels, assumes the fully authorized $900 million level from oil and gas revenues will be invested in LWCF, laying the groundwork to end the chronic diversion of the money for other purposes.  The money for LWCF does not come from taxpayers.

“The Senate’s vote reflects growing momentum for restoring honesty to the budget and putting a portion of offshore oil and gas revenues where Americans were promised they would go: into protecting the parks, working lands, and wildlife habitat that fuel America’s $646 billion outdoor recreation economy,” said Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land.  “As Congress moves forward with its work, sportsmen, businesses, and local communities will be watching closely to ensure the promise of LWCF is finally fulfilled and the chronic diversion of these funds for unrelated spending is ended.”

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 is to be spent annually to permanently protect parks and open spaces for all Americans.  Unfortunately, since the program’s enactment in 1965, Congress has diverted billions of dollars for other purposes.

“We are very grateful to Senator Murray for her leadership on this issue,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.  “Clearly, she understands that LWCF is vitally important to Washington’s quality of life. We also thank those members of the Senate Budget Committee and the full Senate who supported this budget proposal for their continued commitment to LWCF and honest budgeting.”

The Senate resolution, with its commitment to meet conservation needs in communities across America, stands in contrast to the budget proposal from the House that fails to set aside LWCF’s dedicated revenues.  The is similar to the version the House passed last year, which proposed to cut LWCF by 84%, despite strong support for these programs among House members across party lines and geographies.  While the House-passed budget sets the stage for continued diversion of LWCF revenue in the year ahead, the Senate’s version 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.