This morning, Congress released details of the final language agreed to by the conference committee for the transportation bill. A review of the bill revealed that funding and reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which was included with bipartisan support in the Senate version of the bill, was removed in the final bill. In response, The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Government Relations, Bob Bendick, called it “a sad event in the history of American conservation.”
“With bipartisan support, the Senate version of the Transportation Bill would have provided $700 million per year for two years to address the huge demand for projects from across the country and would have reauthorized the program until 2022,” stated Bendick. “But this provision was dropped entirely from the bill at the request of a group led by a vocal minority within the House of Representatives. This comes less than a week after the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee cut the President’s request for LWCF funding for 2013 by 80 percent.”
Final approval of the FY2013 House Interior Appropriations Bill is slated for final House Appropriations Committee approval on Thursday.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a 45-year-old program that purchases land for national parks, wildlife refuges, recreation areas and forests and provides matching grants to states for the purchase of state and local parks, the construction of recreational facilities, and the conservation of forests and other habitat. Money for the LWCF comes from a portion of the proceeds from offshore oil and gas exploitation in federal waters. LWCF-funded projects are located in every state and are enjoyed by hundreds of millions of visitors every year. There is now an extensive backlog of state and federal projects awaiting LWCF funding. The LWCF program is currently authorized by Congress to receive $900 million annually, but the program has only received this full amount one single year during its lifetime.
“It is The Nature Conservancy’s belief that the actions taken by the House do not reflect the views or long-term interests of the American people,” continued Bendick. “Polls consistently show broad and deep public support for land and water conservation, and the Senate reflected those views in its support for the LWCF provision in the transportation bill earlier this year.”
“The Nature Conservancy works with communities in all 50 states to conserve land and water for the benefit and use of the public. LWCF protects America’s most beautiful, productive and treasured places for the benefit of future generations. At a very modest cost in comparison to the overall federal budget, the LWCF improves people’s health, their quality of life, and local economies everywhere in this country. It is deeply disappointing to see this successful, cost-effective program pushed aside despite its tangible benefits and strong public support,” Bendick concluded.
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.