Economy Front and Center in Fight for Conservation

Battling for the future of conservation in Washington D.C., Kathy DeCoster knows the numbers are her greatest weapon. Armed with a slew of statistics, The Trust for Public land’s director of federal affairs is fighting for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) by educating our country’s decision makers.

Established in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) uses money generated from offshore oil and gas drilling to create and protect parks, natural lands, wildlife habitats, and watersheds. Though the LWCF receives $900 million a year in drilling fees, a loophole allows the government to spend that money elsewhere. The Land and Water Conservation Funding Act would close that loophole, guaranteeing the money would be used to conserve land for people and wildlife.

LWCF projects—41,000 and counting—include parks, working forests, natural lands, and recreation areas that strengthen local economies as well as the outdoor, travel, tourism, and service industries. These proven economic benefits are DeCoster’s focus when she speaks to politicians.

Knocking on Doors for Nature

“Every year the budget screw gets turned tighter,” says DeCoster. “We have to get the point across that conservation isn’t just for recreation—it benefits the economy, too. that’s something both sides of the aisle can get behind.”

On a typical day, DeCoster makes dozens of calls to representatives, securing in-person meetings, recruiting supporters, and sharing reports like The Return on Investment from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (PDF) with as many politicians as she can.

“In addition to providing millions of outdoor enthusiasts—from hikers to hunters—with recreational opportunities, conservation also creates jobs and revenue,” explains DeCoster.  “The data is in and we’ve made the case: it’s a fact that conservation grows the economy.”

Thanks to the tireless efforts of The Trust for Public Land’s federal affairs team, U.S. Senators approved funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund with a guaranteed $700 million a year for the next two years. However, the provision must still be passed by the House as part of the 2012 Transportation Bill. It could still end up on the cutting room floor.

With the fate of the LWCF hanging in the balance, DeCoster and her team—working with the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition—are calling on Congress to make the right choice for our country and economy.

“We’re doing everything we can,” she says.

You can help, too. Speak up for conservation and let your representative know you support the Land and Water Conservation Funding Act.