Congress on Brink of Once-in-a-Generation Moment for Public Lands

Full and Permanent Funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund will Dramatically Expand Needed Access to Parks and Public Lands

June 8, 2020
Washington, DC

Congress is on the brink of enacting historic legislation which will dramatically expand access for people to parks and public lands. Tonight, the U.S. Senate voted in an overwhelming, bipartisan fashion with a final vote count of 80 to 17 to move forward with the Great American Outdoors Act, which will ensure that $900 million in offshore oil and gas fees are invested in local parks and open space each and every year. The final Senate vote is expected in the coming days. The House is also poised to enact this legislation, and the White House has announced its support.  

“Equitable access to the outdoors is essential,” said Diane Regas, President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. “Full and permanent funding for LWCF is a huge step forward in providing the resources needed to create outdoor experiences in places they are needed most. I applaud our congressional champions who worked tirelessly over many years to get this done.” 

Regas continued, “During this pandemic, we have seen that access to nature is more important than ever. But not everyone has a safe and quality place to get outside during this time. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that in far too many communities, parks and accessible natural areas are a privilege, when they should be a right. Nationwide, 100 million people—including 28 million kids—don’t have a park within a 10-minute walk of home. Additionally state governments report needing $27 billion for local parks and recreation projects to expand access. The health benefits that parks, trails and public lands provide will be essential to our recovery from this crisis, and the long-term sustainability of our communities.”  

Once this legislation is signed into law, more projects like the following would be eligible for funding:  

  • Utah: Zion Narrows Trail: The upper reaches of this classic wilderness hike into Zion National Park used to cross unprotected land. Using the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we preserved the final private properties outside the park boundary, guaranteeing public access to this special place forever. 

 

  • Georgia: Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park: The Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped us protect dozens of historic homes and businesses in Atlanta for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Today, millions of people visit the childhood home of the civil rights icon each year. 

 

  • Hawaii: Ala Kahakahi National Historic Trail: On the Big Island of Hawaii, we worked with the National Park Service to restore an ancient footpath that once circled the island. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped establish and grow the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, so locals and visitors can discover the island’s rich past, one step at a time. 

 

  • New York: Appalachian Trail: Corbin Hill: No car? No problem! Thanks to one unusual train station in the Hudson Valley, New York City hikers can ride a commuter rail from Grand Central Station to the A.T. at Corbin Hill, protected with Land and Water Conservation Fund support in 2018. 

 

  • California: Pacific Crest Trail: Trinity Divide: With the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we protected 17 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail corridor along the Trinity Divide in Northern California, providing more options for camping and water access for the growing number of thru-hikers who attempt the trail each year. 

 

  • Connecticut: Johnson Oak Park: The Land and Water Conservation Fund helped us revitalize Johnson Oak Park. Once an out-of-date green space in the East End neighborhood of Bridgeport, Connecticut, we worked with neighbors to design a park with new opportunities for exercise and play, outdoor classrooms, a picnic grove, and a nature walk. 

 

  • Minnesota: Superior National Forest: The Land and Water Conservation Fund enabled the U.S. Forest Service to protect Long Island, in Minnesota's Burntside Lake. The wooded island in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is within sight of Listening Point—where celebrated conservation writer Sigurd Olson once mused on the spiritual role of wildlands in modern civilization. 

 

  • Maine: Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge: Vacationers flock to the rocky shores and islands of Maine’s southern coast, but sprawling development threatens the region’s singular beauty and restricts public access. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped expand the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, which protects a network of salt marshes and shoreline along 50 miles of the coast. 

 

  • Colorado: Montbello Open Space: Denver’s Montbello neighborhood is short on green space—so we’re working with the community to build a five-acre nature park with a restored prairie, an environmental education center, and a rock climbing wall. The land was once a vacant lot, which we helped purchase in 2014 using funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. 

 

  • Georgia: Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area: The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in the Atlanta metro area grew by another 31 acres this year when we helped add riverfront property in Forsyth County to the Bowman's Island unit of the park. The project, which used the Land and Water Conservation Fund, provides new public recreation access, and brings us closer to our goal of an eight-mile stretch of protected land along the river. 

 

About the Land and Water Conservation Fund 

The LWCF has been the budgetary lifeblood for parks and open space in the United States for over 50 years. Established by Congress in 1964, it aims to protect the nation's most iconic landscapes—and expand access to outdoor recreation—without taxing everyday Americans. The program uses a portion of oil and gas companies' revenue from offshore drilling to safeguard open space. Under the law, the LWCF can receive up to $900 million every year. But every year the fund is allocated less than that—putting the future of America's parks and public lands at great risk. 

 

The Trust for Public Land has been a leader in fighting for LWCF for over 20 years, and has been an instrumental in building a diverse coalition of groups advocating for LWCF that includes over 100 partner organizations from across the country [https://www.lwcfcoalition.com/partners]. Trust for Public Land staff and volunteers have also been making the case for LWCF directly to lawmakers by organizing lobbying events and sign-on letters, demonstrating the power and importance of parks.  By working with community groups, outdoor businesses, outfitters, conservation groups, and many other types of organizations, we’re proud to have been able to reach this legislative goal.  

 

About The Trust for Public Land 

 The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org. 

 

 

 

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