Why we’re hopeful about the budget deal and conservation’s future

December 21, 2013

Conservationists have reason to celebrate the budget agreement passed Wednesday, thanks to Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

The deal includes a reserve fund for our nation’s premier conservation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), leaving room in the budget for legislation to fully fund the program at $900 million as it was intended.

So what does this really mean?

Well, it’s a little wonky, but basically the reserve fund paves the way for Congress to pass a legislative funding solution for LWCF without having to go outside of the framework of the budget.

Think of it as a safety measure, like preparing equipment before climbing. We’re not ready to start ascending yet, but once we do, we know we have our hook anchored so we make it to the top.

“The vote in favor of the Bipartisan Budget Act is a vote of confidence in the value of LWCF,” said Hannah Clark, LWCF Campaign Director for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “We thank Washington’s Senator Patty Murray for her tireless work on behalf of our outdoor heritage.”

Created by Congress in 1965, LWCF is the nation’s premier federal grant program for conservation and outdoor recreation. However, year after year Congress diverts a majority of LWCF funds for unrelated purposes, leaving critical projects unfunded.

LWCF has protected America’s most treasured landscapes from the Grand Canyon to Mt. Rainer and the Mountains to Sound Greenway right here in Washington. 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.

The budget agreement also includes some relief from the sequester cuts that have seriously impaired the Department of the Interior’s ability to conserve and protect our national parks and public lands.