Bipartisan Land Protection Provision Dropped From Transportation Bill

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, today expressed deep disappointment for the congressional decision to remove a popular provision in the final version of a transportation program reauthorization bill.

The provision would have provided $700 million a year for each of the next two years for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the federal government’s main program for protecting threatened land. It had garnered a wide range of support, from more than 1,000 organizations, representing millions of Americans.

“We are deeply disappointed in the decision by the conferees to remove the LWCF funding provision from the final bill,” said Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land. “The bipartisan support in Congress and across the nation for this program, across all geographies and ideologies, is overwhelming. It thus surprising that the final bill does not include this clear priority for the American people.”

LWCF receives no taxpayer money, and is paid for by oil companies through royalties from federal offshore oil and gas leases.

In March, the Senate voted 76-22 to include $700 million for LWCF in its version of the transportation bill. Separately, the measure won bipartisan support from members of the House of Representatives, including both Republicans and Democrats among the 179 House members who signed “Dear Colleague” letters, asking that the LWCF proposal be retained in the final bill. The Trust for Public Land was among more than 1,000 sportsmen, business, recreation, historic preservation and conservation organizations representing millions of Americans urging House and Senate conferees to retain LWCF funding in the final legislation.

Rogers said, “This is a jobs issue as well, since LWCF plays an important role in supporting the growing nation’s outdoor recreation economy, which provides US-based jobs.” Outdoor recreation and public lands drive $646 billion in direct consumer spending and 6.1 million in sustainable American jobs according to a new report released last week by the Outdoor Industry Association.

Since 1965, LWCF has added millions of acres to America’s national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and national trails, while also providing grants to states for community-based parks, forests and wildlife habitat projects. In recent years, however, steep declines in annual appropriations for the program have led to an enormous backlog of priority conservation properties, working forest protection, and state and local park needs, leaving landowners and local communities in a lurch. The lack of investment in LWCF has also allowed incompatible and often devastating development within public land units.

“The Trust for Public Land will continue to work with our Congressional supporters and people across the country to seek full funding for the LWCF and ensure that funds deposited into the LWCF account go to their intended uses – to the benefit of the American public and communities across the country,” said Rogers.

The Trust for Public Land is the nation’s leading organization for building parks in cities across the country, and in creating local funds for conservation. Since our founding in 1972, we have completed more than 5,200 projects, and protected more than 3 million acres across the country. We depend on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations.