House Interior Increases Spending for Land Protection
The Trust For Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, today praised the House Interior and Environment appropriations subcommittee and its Chairman, U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA), for increasing funds for key federal programs that protect the nation’s wildlife, public lands, and forest resources.
The subcommittee provided $206 million for federal and state park and recreation projects through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the nation’s premier land conservation program, and $62.8 million for the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program (FLP), which provides states with matching funds for forest conservation. The LWCF received a $59 million boost above fiscal year 2007 enacted levels and $148 million above the Administration’s budget request. The FLP level reflects an increase of $6.5 million above fiscal year 2007 and $33 million above the Administration’s budget proposal.
Alan Front, Senior Vice President of The Trust for Public Land, lauded the subcommittee’s action. “This is a welcome and important step towards restoring healthy levels of conservation funding to help communities protect their critical lands,” Front said. “For the first time in at least ten years, the subcommittee has provided increases above previous-year levels for these vital programs. With true vision and leadership from Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks, full Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI), and other members on the subcommittee, this bill marks the beginning of a desperately needed turnaround for conservation in America.”
Increased spending in the LWCF and FLP land conservation accounts could provide funding for critical projects around the country that could otherwise be lost. These projects include:
- La Cienega Area of Critical Environmental Concern and Vallecitos High Country in New Mexico.
- Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge and Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts.
- Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia.
- Sierra Nevada Checkerboard in California
- Mt. Rainier National Park and Washington’s Central Cascade Ecosystems in Washington.
- Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and Northern Great Divide Headwaters in Wisconsin.
In addition to the LWCF and FLP, other key conservation programs in the bill include:
- North American Wetlands Conservation Act: $42.6 million, $3.2 million above enacted level, and the same as President’s budget.
- Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (Section 6) grants: $81 million, equal to the fiscal year 2007 level, and $1 million above President’s budget proposal.
- Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup grants: $100 million, an increase of $11 million over fiscal year 2007 and President’s budget.
Full Committee consideration of the bill is expected in early June, with action on the floor of the House of Representatives soon thereafter. The Senate is preparing to work on a similar bill.
In 1964, Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to preserve natural areas and wildlife and assure that all Americans have access to quality outdoor recreation. Using a small portion of receipts derived from offshore oil and gas drilling, the LWCF federal program has preserved a over 4.7 million acres of land for conservation and recreation purposes, including the Redwoods National Park in California, Cap Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts, Everglades National Park in Florida, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in Georgia, and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretching from Maine to Georgia.
The Forest Legacy Program, authorized by Congress in 1990 to keep intact natural and recreational resources of the nation’s dwindling forests, provides federal money to states to protect threatened woodlands either through public purchase or conservation easements. The latter are voluntary agreements in which landowners are paid to give up future development rights on their property. With its minimum requirement of 25 percent non-federal matching funds, the program leverages state and private dollars to complement federal money, creating partnerships that have lasting value.
The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. With funding from the Forest Legacy Program, the federal Land & Water Conservation Fund, state and local open-space funds, and other public and private investments, TPL has helped to protect more than 2.2 million acres across the country. For more information, visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org.