Bingaman Introduces Landmark Land And Water Legislation (NM)

Albuquerque, NM 11/9/2009- The Trust for Public Land today praised Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) for sponsoring a bill that would fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“We deeply appreciate Senator Bingaman’s extraordinary efforts to restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Jenny Parks, New Mexico director of The Trust for Public Land “His leadership today is putting us on the path to ensuring an ample and reliable federal complement to state, local and private conservation efforts in New Mexico and across America. With proceeds from the fund, we’re investing in the places we cherish the most, from recreational and wildlife lands in the Gila and Carson National Forests to spectacular natural landscapes along the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River, so that these remarkable and irreplaceable places will not be lost for our children and grandchildren.”

The Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act of 2009 [S. 2747], would ensure that the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the federal government’s principal means of assisting in the preservation of outdoor recreation resources including parks, trails, and wildlife lands, would receive full funding at its congressionally authorized level of $900 million without further appropriation. The legislation will revitalize the beleaguered program that has been unable to address backlogged conservation and recreation needs at the state and federal level.

TPL has worked with Senator Bingaman to help communities save their treasured landscapes, ensure public access to rivers and trails, and protect forest lands and sensitive habitat. In recent years, LWCF funding has conserved over 14,000 acres along the Rio Grand Gorge in northern New Mexico including Ute Mountain and 1,280 acres of critical habitat for the Cibola National Forest, near Gallup. Equally important is the program’s grants for state and local providing close-to-home recreation for New Mexico in places like Tingley Recreation Area in Albuquerque and Hyde Memorial State Park in Santa Fe.

The Senate bill, which is co-sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) complements a House provision included in the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009, HR 3534, introduced on September 8 by Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV), to permanently dedicate full funding for the LWCF.

“We look forward to working with Senator Bingaman and his colleagues to move this critical effort forward,” said Parks. “For so many places here and across the country, we can’t afford to wait.”

The LWCF is funded from revenues from offshore oil and gas royalties for the sole purpose of reinvesting that money into land protection and outdoor recreation. Unfortunately, in recent years most of the money designated for this fund has been diverted to other federal programs. The fund has only received its authorized amount of $900 million once and posted a low of $155 million in 2008.

As a result, there is a substantial backlog of federal land acquisition needs across our national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and BLM lands. The states also report a huge unmet need for local parks and recreation resources totaling more than $27 billion in eligible projects.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations and public finance to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL has protected more than 2.8 million acres since it was created in 1972.