Conservationists Commend Rep. Bass’ Leadership on Land and Water

New Hampshire’s conservation, forestry, and outdoor leaders today praised U.S Representative Charlie Bass (R-2) for offering a bipartisan amendment to restore much needed conservation funding to the federal budget.

On Tuesday, June 26, Rep. Bass sponsored an amendment to add $20 million to the beleaguered Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in the House Fiscal Year 2012 Interior Appropriations Bill, which is being debated this week. The amendment passed the House on a voice vote.

Before passage of the Bass amendment, funding for LWCF had been slashed to $65.8 million, a 78% cut from Fiscal Year 2011. LWCF, which uses no taxpayer dollars, is funded by offshore oil and gas lease fees. Its purpose is to set aside a small fraction of the revenues derived from the use of offshore resources that belong to the American people for projects to preserve natural resources elsewhere.

“We applaud Congressman Bass for his leadership in support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a critical source of funding for the protection of significant land, water, and recreational resources throughout our region and the nation,” said Susan Arnold, Vice-President for Conservation for the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Over its nearly 50 years, LWCF has helped conserve parks, wildlife refuges, forests, rivers, trails, historic and cultural sites, fishing and hunting access, and other important federal, state and local public lands. In New Hampshire, LWCF has protected places like the White Mountain National Forest, Appalachian Trial, Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, and Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. The Forest Legacy Program, which is funded through LWCF, provides grants to states to protect working forests, water quality, and provide access for recreation.

Jane A. Difley, President/Forester of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, said, “We applaud Congressman Bass for his strong leadership in defending the integrity of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Protecting our state’s land and water has always been something that all New Hampshire citizens agree on, and Congressman Bass is upholding New Hampshire’s proud bipartisan tradition of support for conservation.”

A bipartisan national poll of 800 likely voters released on July 25 found that 83% of Republicans, 87% of independents, and 93% of Democrats support continued funding for LWCF. The poll was conducted during the week of July 10, 2011, and was undertaken jointly by two research firms, one Republican (Public Opinion Strategies) and one Democratic (Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates ).

“We commend Rep. Bass for standing up for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and recognizing that American’s across the country support this unique fund that benefits all of us,” said Rodger Krussman, New Hampshire State Director for The Trust for Public Land.

“We applaud Congressman Bass for rising above the fray and recognizing the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to New Hampshire,” said Daryl Burtnett, State Director of The Nature Conservancy of New Hampshire. “His effort to find bipartisan common ground and take the first step to restoring some of the devastating funding cut from this critical program is important. He clearly understands that people across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support protecting the air, land and water that is so critical to the future of our children.”

Ryan Owens, the Executive Director of the Monadnock Conservancy, said, “We applaud the efforts of Congressman Bass and his House colleagues to restore partial funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. They have demonstrated their belief, which we share, that protecting open space for clean water and air, healthy outdoor recreation, resilient ecosystems, and quality jobs is not a wasteful luxury but a critical public service.”

“While LWCF funding remains at historically low levels, the support for Rep Bass’ amendment – which drew broad bipartisan support – demonstrates that members of Congress are listening to the American people about the importance of protecting specials places for future generations,” said Krussman. “This increase for LWCF – in a bill that devastates conservation spending and where few improvements have been made to date – can only help.”

Outdoor recreation, which is supported through LWCF, is important for the state and local economies. The Outdoor Industry Foundation reports that active outdoor recreation supports 53,000 jobs across New Hampshire, generates $261 million in annual state tax revenue and produces nearly $4 billion annually in retail sales across New Hampshire (accounting for 7.8 percent of gross state product.)

“Rep. Bass has demonstrated once again his understanding of the importance of outdoor recreation and the economy,” said Will Manzer, CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports. “New Hampshire residents and tourist alike enjoy our public lands and outdoor areas, bringing critical dollars to all parts of the state. I applaud Congressman Bass for his successful leadership to add funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”

Jim O’Brien, the Executive Director of Conservation NH, said, “The Land and Water Conservation Fund is critical to a number of vital conservation projects in our state. A healthy environment and a healthy economy go hand in hand, and this amendment ensures that our state and nation remain committed to protecting our natural resources for the next generation. We thank Congressman Bass and his colleagues for working across the aisle to restore this important funding.”