TPL Praises Bipartisan House Leadership from New England on Conservation Funding
WASHINGTON DC, 3/21/2006: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national non-profit conservation group, today praised the work of Congressmen Charlie Bass (R-NH) and Tom Allen (D-ME) for their leadership in securing over 120 signatures from a bipartisan and geographically diverse group of House members in support of parks, open space, recreation and forest conservation funding.
“Reps. Bass and Allen have been stalwarts in the fight for protection of the special places in New Hampshire and Maine that provide the public with access for hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, hiking, canoeing, camping or playing ball, and that help ensure continued economic vitality,” said Whitney Hatch, New England Regional Director of TPL. “We need their continued leadership to ensure the continued conservation of critical lands in New England-from local parks to wild lands-and we laud their call for necessary funding that will protect our special places.”
The letter requesting increases in funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Forest Legacy Program during the upcoming federal appropriations process was sent to the House Appropriations Committee. In calling for a restoration of adequate funding levels to the three programs that serve nationwide land conservation and outdoor recreation needs, the Members of Congress wanted “to ensure that critical park and recreation lands throughout the nation are not lost forever.” The letter request $320 million for LWCF and $80 million for the Forest Legacy Program.
The LWCF is authorized by Congress to receive $900 million annually in funding, a level that has been met only once despite a designated funding source – the royalty receipts from off-shore drilling leases. The shortfall in funding has led to a backlog of land acquisition projects of approximately $10 billion, according to federal land agencies (National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service).
The Forest Legacy Program assists states in conserving private forests threatened by development and has protected over one million acres since 1992. Participating states requested over $200 million from the Forest Legacy Program for this year’s funding cycle alone, and 14 states that submitted projects for funding were excluded from the President’s budget request altogether.
“Representatives Charlie Bass and Tom Allen, along with 120 of their House colleagues, have carried a resounding conservation message straight from the American public to the halls of Congress,” said Alan Front, Senior Vice President of The Trust for Public Land. “Communities across the nation are working hard to protect the best of their natural and recreational resource lands. When those landscapes are threatened, people don’t want to hear all the reasons why conservation can’t happen — they want real public protection, which typically requires real money.”
“We’re grateful to Congressmen Bass and Allen for their leadership in advancing this powerful, bipartisan call to renew the commitment to programs that fund our parks, forests, and other outdoor resources. And we join with them, their co-signers, and the vast majority of the American people in asking Congress to restore these programs to historic funding levels, so our most special places can be conserved before it is too late.”
In New Hampshire, the LWCF and Forest Legacy Program have protected such natural areas as the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge and the Connecticut Lakes watershed in the northern part of the state. In Maine, these programs have been instrumental in ensuring the protection of land along the southern coast at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and millions of acres of forests in northern Maine, including at Mt. Blue State Park and Tumbledown Mountain.
In the current budget cycle, TPL is working with Congress and the states to secure funds from the LWCF and Forest Legacy Programs for the protection of critical lands at Robb Reservoir and Lake Umbagog in New Hampshire, and at Grafton Notch and Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine.
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 2.1 million acres across the country. For more information, visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org.