The Nature Conservancy commends the Fiscal Year 2012 budget request released by the Obama administration today, which proposes important investments in our nation’s land and water, as well as for outdoor recreation and the working farms and ranches that support local economies.
The 2012 federal budget request, for the year that begins Oct. 1, recommends full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The request for $900 million for LWCF, the program’s authorized funding level, clearly shows the importance of protecting our national and local forests and parks, coastlines and water resources, wildlife and recreation areas, and the working lands that sustain us. It also underscores the need to focus federal government dollars on the most efficient and effective programs that can protect the highest priority natural areas.
LWCF does not use taxpayer dollars – it is already paid for through a percentage of revenues from offshore oil and gas development to balance the use of those natural resources by protecting important land and water elsewhere. Offshore oil and gas fees typically average more than $6 billion annually, but in the past, most of the funds promised for LWCF have been diverted elsewhere, with Congress rarely fulfilling the full funding level over the program’s 45-year history.
We also strongly endorse the administration's budget proposals for other conservation programs such as NOAA’s competitive regional grants program that provides funding for states to plan for and manage uses of coastal waters and continued support for coastal restoration and innovative fisheries management, which are vital to ensure resilient coastal communities and sustainable management of the nation's living marine resources.
Important, as well, are continued funding for meeting U.S. commitments to protecting tropical forests and increasing the resilience of developing nations to extreme weather, climate change and sea level rise. Sensible investments now can avoid the need for future expenses related to disaster relief and conflict management.
The President’s FY2012 budget stands in contrast to the U.S. House of Representative’s proposal for FY2011 funding released last week. The House FY11 continuing resolution (H.R. 1) would reduce LWCF to $41 million, the lowest level in more than four decades and a 90 percent cut from FY2010 enacted levels. Other examples of cuts proposed by the House include reductions to international climate funding, the North America Wetlands Conservation Act and state wildlife grants, NOAA coastal restoration, and USDA, EPA and U.S. Forest Service programs.
The Nature Conservancy recognizes that Federal spending must be stabilized and, in places, reduced. However, cuts of the magnitude proposed in the House’s continuing resolution disproportionately target conservation and represent an unprecedented reversal of progress in ensuring the health of our lands, forests, rivers and coastlines. These cuts will also impact the work of our states to protect natural resources and keep our water and air clean for all people.
Healthy land and clean water are among the basic necessities of life that we depend upon. For the health of our nation, we must continue to make important investments in programs that protect our clean water supplies, keep our land productive, and support jobs in agriculture, tourism and outdoor recreation. Ensuring our health, and that of future generations, depends on how well we protect our natural world. The Obama administration should be commended for recommending a budget for 2012 that would do just that.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.