BIPARTISAN COALITION OF SENATORS CALL FOR ‘STRONG INVESTMENT’ IN IMPORTANT LAND CONSERVATION PROGRAMS

April 10, 2014

(Washington, DC) – A bipartisan coalition of 51 senators are urging the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to support the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and Forest Legacy programs as they begin considerations for the upcoming fiscal year. In a letter led by U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the bipartisan group of Senators asked Subcommittee Chairman Jack Reed and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski for a “a strong investment in LWCF and Forest Legacy that will support public land conservation and ensure access to the outdoors for all Americans.”

“We firmly believe that LWCF and Forest Legacy are important programs to ensure continued access to public lands for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities – an important and unique aspect of our American heritage,” the Senators wrote in a letter delivered Wednesday. “Continued investments in these programs help our nation's outdoor recreation, conservation and preservation economy, which supports millions of American jobs and contributes billions of dollars annually to the entire U.S. economy.”

The letter requests adequate funding levels in the FY 2015 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for LWCF and Forest Legacy programs, which protect natural resource lands, outdoor recreation opportunities and working forests at the local, state and federal levels so that wildlife habitats, hunting and fishing access, state and local parks, Civil War battlefields, productive forests and other important lands are protected for current and future generations. 

"Thanks to the Land & Water Conservation Fund more Americans are able to get outside and experience our nation's network of parks, waters and trails," said Kirk Bailey, vice president of government affairs for Outdoor Industry Association. "Furthermore, LWCF has protected and invested in recreation access in every state in the nation, and 98 percent of U.S. counties, which directly supports the $646 billion outdoor recreation economy and 6.1 million American jobs. OIA applauds the leadership of Senators Shaheen, Leahy, Burr and Collins, and their colleagues in the Senate for recognizing that fully funding the Land & Water Conservation Fund is an investment in America's future."

In their request, the Senators note that “strong and consistent funding for both LWCF and Forest Legacy” is critical given that LWCF, now in its 50th year, and Forest Legacy have been chronically underfunded, which has created a large backlog of conservation needs across the country. As a result, the Senators said, the “uncertainty has led states and federal land management agencies to postpone or cancel many important projects,” impacting the national outdoor recreation, conservation and preservation economy.

"We are so grateful for the leadership of Senators Leahy, Shaheen, Burr and Collins on conservation funding programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Forest Legacy Program," said Rodger Krussman, NH/VT Director for The Trust for Public Land. "These important programs protect our natural resources, our drinking water, and our way of life in northern New England as well as supporting community needs in North Carolina and elsewhere across the country. Future funding will strengthen our economy by ensuring our valuable private forests remain productive, and everyone has access to recreation across the region."

The full text of the Senators’ letter is here and below.

April 9, 2014

 

The Honorable Jack Reed                                           The Honorable Lisa Murkowski

Chairman                                                                  Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Interior, Environment                         Subcommittee on Interior, Environment

and Related Agencies                                                  and Related Agencies

Senate Committee on Appropriations                             Senate Committee on Appropriations

Washington, D.C.  20510                                              Washington, D.C.  20510

 

Dear Chairman Reed and Ranking Member Murkowski:

We are writing to express our strong support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and Forest Legacy Program, and urge you to support these valuable programs in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. 

The entire suite of LWCF programs protect natural resource lands, outdoor recreation opportunities and working forests at the local, state and federal levels, ensuring that critical wildlife habitat, hunting and fishing access, state and local parks, Civil War battlefields, productive forests and other important lands are protected for current and future generations.  As you begin the process of drafting your FY 2015 bill, we respectfully request much needed funding for these critical programs, particularly as LWCF is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015. We ask that you include a strong investment in LWCF and Forest Legacy that will support public land conservation and ensure access to the outdoors for all Americans.

Since 1977, LWCF receipts have been collected annually to specifically fund federal land acquisition, conserve threatened and endangered species, and provide grants to states. LWCF was designed to not use taxpayer dollars and the LWCF receipts are not revenues for general purposes, but rather payments to the government specifically intended for conservation spending.  However, more than $18 billion has been siphoned from the LWCF trust fund since the program's inception in 1965, diverted from their original conservation purpose.  This chronic redirection of funding has created a large backlog of conservation needs across the country, including already-negotiated land acquisitions from willing sellers.  The resulting uncertainty has led states and federal land management agencies to postpone or cancel many important projects. 

We firmly believe that LWCF and Forest Legacy are important programs to ensure continued access to public lands for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities – an important and unique aspect of our American heritage. Continued investments in these programs help our nation's outdoor recreation, conservation and preservation economy, which supports millions of American jobs and contributes billions of dollars annually to the entire U.S. economy.

Despite a history of underfunding, LWCF remains the premier federal program to conserve our nation's land, water, historic and recreation heritage.  LWCF and Forest Legacy provide a diverse array of conservation tools to address national, state, local and regionally driven priorities across the country. These include working lands easements that allow farmers and ranchers to continue acting as stewards of the landscape that sustains their livelihoods and working forest projects conserved through Forest Legacy keeping critical timberlands forested and accessible and providing jobs in rural communities.

LWCF is also a critical tool to acquire inholdings, expand public lands and protect national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, wild and scenic river corridors, national scenic and historic trails, Bureau of Land Management lands and other federal areas.  The companion LWCF state grants program provides crucial support for state and local park acquisitions, recreational facilities, and trail corridors.  The LWCF stateside program has funded over 41,000 projects including outdoor recreation facilities, sports fields, and trails in all fifty states.  The LWCF state grant is the government's primary investment tool for ensuring that children and families have access to close-to-home recreation and the demand is far outstripping the available funding. Access to local parks and community green spaces is vital for engaging youth and their families across the country with the outdoors.

These LWCF and Forest Legacy expenditures also create important savings for our federal agencies and the public in the long term because they secure land that provides valuable water resources, guard against incompatible development, support private working lands, and reduce fire risk.  We hope you will remember that both LWCF and Forest Legacy leverage and complement state, local, and private conservation investments.

We look forward to working with the Subcommittee in the coming months to ensure that these vital programs are adequately funded in FY 2015 to support our longstanding commitment to conservation and to ensure that critical park protection and recreational development opportunities across the nation are not lost forever.  As you begin drafting the FY 2015 Interior Appropriations bill, please include strong and consistent funding for both LWCF and Forest Legacy.

Thank you again for including strong funding for LWCF and Forest Legacy in your FY 2014 draft bill, and for your consideration of our request for FY 2015. We are grateful for your leadership in ensuring that funds necessary for our conservation and recreation needs across the country will continue to be available.

Sincerely,

 

PATRICK LEAHY                                                                                 RICHARD BURR                         

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

JEANNE SHAHEEN                                                                            SUSAN M. COLLINS                                 

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

DIANNE FEINSTEIN                                                                          BARBARA BOXER             

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

MARK UDALL                                                                                     MICHAEL F. BENNET      

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL                                                                CHRISTOPHER MURPHY

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

THOMAS R. CARPER                                                                        CHRISTOPHER A. COONS

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

BRIAN SCHATZ                                                                                  MAZIE K. HIRONO           

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

MIKE CRAPO                                                                                      RICHARD J. DURBIN

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

TOM HARKIN                                                                                     ANGUS S. KING, JR.

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

BENJAMIN L. CARDIN                                                                     ELIZABETH WARREN                        

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

EDWARD J. MARKEY                                                                       CARL LEVIN

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

DEBBIE STABENOW                                                                         AMY KLOBUCHAR

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

AL FRANKEN                                                                                      JON TESTER

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

JOHN E. WALSH                                                                                KELLY AYOTTE

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

ROBERT MENENDEZ                                                                        CORY A. BOOKER

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

TOM UDALL                                                                                        MARTIN HEINRICH

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

CHARLES E. SCHUMER                                                                    KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

KAY R. HAGAN                                                                                  RON WYDEN

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

JEFF MERKLEY                                                                                    ROBERT P. CASEY, JR.

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

SHELDON WHITEHOUSE                                                                TIM JOHNSON

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

BERNARD SANDERS                                                                        TIM KAINE         

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

MARIA CANTWELL                                                                           TAMMY BALDWIN

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV                                                              JOE MANCHIN III             

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

MARK R. WARNER                                                                           SHERROD BROWN

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

JOHNNY ISAKSON                                                                            JAMES E. RISCH

United States Senator                                                                   United States Senator

 

SAXBY CHAMBLISS

United States Senator