House-Proposed Cuts will Impact Local Economies

Legislation being considered this week by the House of Representatives will virtually eliminate funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and have drastic impacts on communities across the nation, according to The Trust for Public Land. The House Continuing Resolution for FY 2011 funding, which includes this cut, is slated for a vote Thursday.

“It is unfortunate that the House is considering such deep cuts in a program like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which does so much for local communities without any taxpayer money,” said Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land. “We understand the need to scrutinize and trim the federal budget, just like American families across the nation are doing, but cutting a program which is effective and is not paid for by taxpayers is not the way to do it.”

LWCF is paid for through a small portion of money from offshore oil and gas drilling, rather than taxpayer money, to help provide funding to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities. It is authorized to receive $900 million a year from revenues that typically average over $6 billion, but Congress determines the exact amount through the budget process.

If the House cuts are enacted, the LWCF program would be slashed to less than $60 million, the lowest level in the program’s 45-year history. Because the program has rarely reached its authorized level of expenditure, there is a $17 billion credit of unspent LWCF funding in the U.S. Treasury.

Land conservation projects in almost every state in the nation are pending the outcome of the FY 2011 budget process. Landowners willing to sell their property for conservation purposes also await this decision. Projects include:

  • Maumelle Water Excellence project in Arkansas, where acquisition of a permanent conservation easement is needed to protect drinking water supplies for Little Rock.
  • Santa Monica National Recreation Area in California, where money would complete the acquisitions of Zuma/Trancas Canyon properties that are highly threatened by residential housing development.
  • Ophir Valley in Colorado, where previous federal money has purchased much of the key ownership for the Uncompahgre National Forest. It would be unfair to the landowner to not complete the acquisition
  • The Minnesota Wilderness/Lake Vermillion in Minnesota, where a landowner has been partly bought out with previous-year funds, and sportsmen are anxious to see a key fishing opportunity protected for public use
  • Androscoggin Headwaters in New Hampshire, where a conservation easement to protect key landscape and jobs near Lake Umbagog, is a cornerstone in a larger federal/state partnership that will fall apart without FY 2011 funding
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, where money is needed to complete an already-underway project that protects key scenery, recreation lands, and habitat in one of the park’s most visible and heavily visited areas
  • Congaree National Park in South Carolina, where a three-year purchase is awaiting the final funding needed to complete the acquisition of the Riverstone tract, and provide recreational, historical, and educational opportunities for nearby school children and park visitors
  • Other at-risk projects include conservation of Civil War battlefields, working ranches and forests, state and local parks, and natural areas that preserve access to public lands for hunters, fishers, and outdoor recreationists.

“Tourism also plays a huge role in boosting local economies and communities depend on protecting access to their critical resources for the public. The LWCF helps all Americans, and it should not be devastated by reckless cuts,” said Rogers.

Outdoor recreation, much of which takes place on local, state and federal lands protected by LWCF, is vital to our nation’s economy. Hunting, fishing, camping, climbing, hiking, paddling, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, and other activities contribute a total of $730 billion annually to the economy, supporting 6.5 million jobs (1 of every 20 jobs in the U.S.) and stimulating 8 percent of all consumer spending according to the Outdoor Industry Foundation. In addition, a Department of Interior report from 2010 found that 20 jobs are created for every $1 million invested in our recreation economy each year. Full funding of LWCF at $900 million would potentially create tens of thousands of recreation jobs in our local communities each year.

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. TPL has protected nearly 3 million acres across the country.