The Nature Conservancy called on Congress and federal agencies to implement key provisions of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative Report, released today by the White House.
“This report provides an important blueprint for making sure the lands, waters, and natural systems that underpin our country’s economy and way of life remain healthy and productive for future generations,” said Mark Robertson, executive director of the South Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “From forests and wetlands that filter our drinking water to places for outdoor recreation that generate billions of dollars in economic value each year, America’s great outdoors play a vital role in all of our lives.”
The Conservancy particularly supports the report’s call for working with local interests to conserve and manage large areas of natural land and river systems. The report’s recommendations focus on:
The report is the result of more than 40 listening sessions held across the country last year that generated comments from nearly 200,000 Americans.
“The people of South Carolina understand the value of our nation’s natural heritage and the need to keep it healthy,” Robertson said. “Across our state, we are losing our natural places, our working farms, and our wildlife habitats to poorly planned development, rising sea level and shoreline erosion, pollution, and unsustainable forestry practices. Now, more than ever, we need the conservation direction and action outlined in the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative Report.”
Recent polling by The Nature Conservancy shows that more than three-quarters of U.S. voters believe we can both protect important lands and waters and strengthen the economy at the same time. In 2010, voters passed 83 percent of statewide and local ballot measures to fund open space, the most successful year for public investments in conservation since 1989.
The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative Report also recommends that federal agencies work more effectively together to streamline their conservation programs, increase efficiency and reduce red tape – actions that will save money while protecting America’s natural heritage.
The Conservancy strongly supports White House funding recommendations for effective and efficient programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), for which the President has proposed full funding at $900 million in his 2012 budget.
“We are pleased to see that the Obama administration’s conservation plan calls for a new, larger and more connected approach to conserving our land, water, and wildlife,” said Robert Bendick, director of U.S. Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy. “Our work in all 50 states over the past 50 years shows that the most effective conservation projects connect science with on-the-ground solutions, connect land with water, and connect federal government assistance with community desires. The America’s Great Outdoors Initiative is on the right track to set a new course for 21st century conservation.”
The report recommends empowering communities to protect the places most important to their local economies. In particular, the Conservancy commends the administration’s call for a significant increase in the pace of farm, ranch, and forest land conservation through an extension of enhanced deductions for conservation easement donations and through the targeted use of Farm Bill reserve and cost-share programs. Private landowners hold 70 percent of all of our nation’s land. In South Carolina, 88 percent of our forest land is privately owned.
Key to enacting the findings of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative Report is full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. One of the nation’s most successful conservation programs ─ having protected places like Congaree National Park and Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge ─ the LWCF is authorized to receive a percentage of revenues from gas and oil drilling – a sort of penance to offset any environmental impacts of activities by those industries.
A meaningful start to the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative will require Congress to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund as the Obama administration has requested in its proposed 2012 budget. The report will be posted online shortly after the President’s announcement tonight at http://americasgreatoutdoors.gov/
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.