Conservation Funding Slashed in FY 2011 Budget

Congress approved the Fiscal Year 2011 federal budget on
Thursday, significantly cutting funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the country’s premiere federal program for protecting lands for all
Americans.  Supported by offshore oil
and gas leasing revenues – not taxpayers’ dollars – the LWCF ensures all
Americans have access to local community parks and playgrounds and the vast
expanses of federal public lands.

“We are grateful to the many House and Senate members, who
in a bi-partisan way, defended the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the FY
2011 budget negotiations and who prevented the 
much larger cuts proposed by the House from being included in the final
package.  However, the Coalition is
disappointed that Congress once again has left unmet the promise to the
American people embodied in LWCF, especially since these are dedicated revenues
authorized to go to LWCF and are NOT taxpayer dollars,” said Bill Meadows,
President of The Wilderness Society.

In the final budget agreement, LWCF is funded at $301
million, a 33% cut from the FY10 enacted level.  Programs that ensure protection of working forests and ranches,
threatened and endangered species habitat, access for sportsmen and
recreationists, and our national parks, wildlife refuges, forests and other
public lands are all impacted by these cuts.

“This 33 percent reduction from FY 10 enacted levels is not
only a disproportionate cut to a very successful program but means that LWCF
funds have been diverted from their intended and authorized purposes,” said
Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land.  “If we are serious about creating jobs and getting the economy
back on track, conservation spending on LWCF is not only a wise, but an
essential investment that reaps immediate and tangible benefits in our
communities across the tourism, service and outdoor recreation sectors.”

The outdoor industry is one of America’s fastest growing
sectors. In addition to contributing more than $730 billion to the American
economy each year, it generates $88 billion in annual state and federal tax
revenue. More than 6.5 million American jobs are supported by the active
outdoor recreation economy. 
The reduced funding levels for LWCF contained in this final budget agreement
means that a host of willing-seller, critically needed and locally driven land
conservation and outdoor recreation projects, will not get done this year.
 Some will be lost forever, as willing-seller landowners cannot be
expected to wait for Congress to act.

Created by Congress in 1965, LWCF was a bipartisan
commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural
heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. National
parks like Rocky Mountain and the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as national
wildlife refuges, national forests, Civil War battlefields, cultural and
historic sites, rivers and lakes, working ranches and forests, community parks,
trails, and ball fields in every one of our 50 states are permanently protected
for Americans to enjoy thanks to federal funds from LWCF.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition is an informal partnership working together to support full and dedicated
funding for LWCF. The coalition includes hundreds of local, state and national
business, recreation, private landowner and conservation organizations across
the country.