Representatives Reichert, Inslee, Dicks take strong stand for conservation fund
Seattle, WA – The Wildlife and Recreation Coalition today praised U.S. Representatives Dave Reichert (R-8), Jay Inslee (D-1) and Norm Dicks (D-6) for taking leadership on the House floor to restore essential conservation funding cut from the federal budget.
On Tuesday, June 26, Reps Reichert and Inslee cosponsored an amendment, offered by Rep Bass (R-NH), to add $20 million to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in the House Fiscal Year 2012 Interior Appropriations Bill. Before the amendment, which passed the House on a voice vote, the House bill would have slashed LWCF to $61 million, a 78% cut from FY11 enacted levels.
Rep. Norm Dicks, a longstanding champion of the LWCF program, raised concerns about the cuts included in the bill in his capacity as the ranking Democratic member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.
“A big thank you to Congressmen Reichert, Inslee, and Dicks” said WWRC Executive Director Joanna Grist. “They showed tremendous bipartisan leadership in communicating this issue to the rest of the House. Clearly, they understand that Washingtonians want to protect the nation’s most critical conservation tool. Their actions send a message that these drastic cuts to LWCF are unwise and unacceptable.”
LWCF is the nation’s primary tool to conserve land for state and national parks, recreation, wildlife refuges, and working forests and rangelands. LWCF does not use tax dollars. Instead, it is funded from a small portion of federal revenues from offshore oil and gas leases.
Since 1965, LWCF has invested nearly half a billion dollars for state and federal land conservation projects in Washington State. It has protected iconic places like Mt. Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades National Parks, the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway/I-90 Corridor, and the Pacific Crest Trail.
In Washington, projects in nine federal areas and 17 local park and trail projects are lined up for LWCF funding this year.
“Without LWCF funding, projects to protect some of our state’s most beloved places could be lost forever,” said Mariana Parks, a member of the Coalitions’ board “Given the economic benefits of public land, especially during these difficult fiscal times, funding LWCF is an imperative that can’t be ignored. I applaud Congressmen Reichert for his support of this amendment.”
Active outdoor recreation generates over $11.7 billion in revenue annually for Washington State, supporting 115,000 jobs statewide. Each year over 2.7 million people enjoy hunting, fishing and wildlife watching across Washington, contributing $3 billion to the state’s economy.
Asha Rehnberg, Executive Director for the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, said, “I applaud the efforts of Congressman Inslee and his colleagues to restore partial funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He has clearly demonstrated that he stands with his constituents in the belief that protecting our clean water and air, recreation opportunities, healthy ecosystems, and local outdoor economy is a priority and essential public service.”
The $20 million increase to LWCF along with a second amendment adding $5 million for sportsmen’s access purchases brings the total LWCF funding in the House bill to $90.8 million. Despite this bipartisan show of support, this still leaves the program woefully underfunded, at less than one tenth its authorized level of $900 million. The final status of the Fund for FY12 will be decided in the fall.
About the Land and Water Conservation Fund:
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) supports federal acquisition and conservation easements of our nation’s most precious lands and waters. Additionally, the LWCF funds a stateside grant program which provides matching funds for state and local entities to acquire and develop recreational opportunities in almost every county of the nation. The Forest Legacy Program, which is funded through LWCF, provides grants to states to protect working forests and water quality and provide access for recreation. Through protection of our nation’s most valuable resources, the Fund promotes local economies while providing endless opportunities for everyone to go hiking, biking, camping, hunting, fishing, rock climbing, swimming, skiing, and more.
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. The result is a huge backlog of unmet funding needs for land protection and outdoor recreation across our federal public lands and state and local parks. Full funding has been appropriated only once in the program’s forty-five year history and in recent years it has steadily declined to as low as $155 million in 2008.
About the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition is a non-profit citizens group of farmers and fishermen, hunters and hikers, conservationists and business leaders dedicated to supporting public funding for parks, habitat and working farms across the state. Governors Dan Evans and Mike Lowry founded the Coalition in 1989. In 1990, the Coalition persuaded the State Legislature to create the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) – a grant program that supports acquisition, development, and restoration projects across the state. The WWRP has provided more than $623 million for over 1,000 projects statewide.