Senate Passes Once-in-a-Generation Legislation for Public Lands
Today, the U.S. Senate, in an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 73 to 25, passed historic legislation that will dramatically expand needed access to parks and public lands with the full, dedicated, and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as part of the Great American Outdoors Act. The Act includes two components: providing $900 million per year automatically to LWCF, and significant investment in longstanding maintenance backlogs in our national parks, forests, and other public lands. The U.S. House is expected to pass this legislation soon, and the White House has indicated it will sign it into law.
“Equitable access to the outdoors is essential,” said Diane Regas, President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. “Full and permanent funding for LWCF is a huge step forward in providing the resources needed to create outdoor experiences in places they are needed most. I applaud our congressional champions who worked tirelessly over many years to get this done.”
Regas continued, “During this pandemic, we have seen that access to nature is more important than ever. But not everyone has a safe and quality place to get outside during this time. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that in far too many communities, parks and accessible natural areas are a privilege, when they should be a right. Nationwide, 100 million people—including 28 million kids—don’t have a park within a 10-minute walk of home. Additionally, state governments report needing $27 billion for local parks and recreation projects to expand access. The health benefits that parks, trails and public lands provide will be essential to our recovery from this crisis, and the long-term sustainability of our communities.”
The Trust for Public Land is working to ensure this funding is used to bring parks and public lands where they’re needed most. By advocating for and helping to establish the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program and supporting projects that will serve communities who do not currently have access to quality outdoor spaces, the organization is working to drive this funding towards BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities which do not historically have access to the outdoors because of legacies of disinvestment. The Trust for Public Land also continues to work to expand national parks and public lands into metropolitan areas where most Americans live. This includes the acquisition of land at places like Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco, Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Cuyahoga Valley National Park in between Cleveland and Akron, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta and the creation of Stonewall National Monument in New York City and Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque.
If this bill is signed into law and funding for LWCF is secured, the following places could be permanently protected:
Ohio: Cleveland Clark Avenue Park: This park will become a community anchor, nestled between two of the most vibrant, diverse neighborhoods in Cleveland and adjacent to the local elementary school and recreation center. The new park site will draw generations of families together, providing a civic space for local residents to gather, engage and advocate for issues plaguing their community. As an ethnically diverse community, the new park site will be grounds for summer produce markets, festivals and cultural events, concerts and other performing arts.
Colorado: Panorama Park: The re-imagination of this park will be the largest neighborhood park redevelopment project in the history of the Colorado Springs. Through a community-centered design process The Trust for Public Land will transform outdoor recreation accessibility for the diverse community in southeast Colorado Springs. Renovations will update aging infrastructure, add community identified amenities like fitness station, walking loops and inclusive play equipment, while addressing barriers to access and connecting the surrounding communities.
Oregon: Spence Mountain: This site contains 35 acres of trails in Klamath Falls which are enjoyed by local running and biking groups and provides explorers of all ability levels with the opportunity to get outside.
New Hampshire: Dundee Community Forest: Conserving over a thousand acres of forest in New Hampshire’s scenic Mount Washington Valley would boost the local forestry industry and make more space for hiking, hunting, mountain biking, and backcountry skiing.
Washington: Dewatto Forest: The lush lowland forests surrounding the Hood Canal in Washington State have supported generations of timber families, harbor wildlife, filter clean water for salmon and people, and provide open space for people to explore. The protection of this land from development will ensure sustainable forestry and public access to these woods forever.
Vermont: White Rocks Gateway: Located in the rolling mountains of Wallingford is 464 acres of unprotected forests and a portion of the dramatic quartzite cliffs of White Rocks. This property will protect the views from the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail by as an acquisition to the Green Mountain National Forest.
Additionally, as Congress considers its next economic stimulus and infrastructure package, The Trust for Public Land is leading a coalition of over 100 community organizations pushing historic investments in close-to-home parks.
About the Land and Water Conservation Fund
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the cornerstone of conservation in America. It directs fees from offshore oil and gas drilling to investments in parks and open space, while costing taxpayers nothing. Created in 1964, LWCF is authorized to receive $900 million a year for parks and conservation every year, but that funding has never been guaranteed. Instead, Congress has directed more than half of that funding to other purposes. This legislation for full and dedicated funding for LWCF will be the most significant parks and public lands law enacted in 50 years, and amounts to a 240 percent increase in LWCF funding for the next ten years, compared to the last ten years, which will allow for stable and predictable public funding to support long-term land conservation deals—and a massive expansion in federal support for our goal of creating a park within a 10-minute walk of every person in America.
LWCF is also vital for the United States’ economy. A 2014 National Park Service report found that National Parks support close to 240,000 jobs and generate over $14.6 billion in economic activity in gateway communities, or those areas leading into National Park Service units. LWCF investments also stimulate economic growth, supporting 7.6 million jobs and $887 billion in annual consumer spending on outdoor recreation, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.
The Trust for Public Land has been fighting for full and dedicated funding for LWCF for over 20 years, by building relationships with outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes, from birders to hunters, from cyclists to snowmobilers. The outdoor industry—an $887 billion economic powerhouse—joined this coalition en masse, along with small business owners in rural towns, parents in big cities whose kids don’t have a park to play in after school, timber industry associations and local elected officials and artists and public health advocates and teachers. Over time, the LWCF Coalition grew to include 1,400 organizations, with members in every state representing every position on the political spectrum.
History of LWCF funding:
8 million acres protected in all 50 states
$20 billion invested in communities since 1964
98 percent of U.S. counties have a park or open space funded by LWCF
More than 45,000 state and local park projects
About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.
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