TPL Praises House for Passage of CELP Act

Washington, DC 9/29/2008: The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelming showed their support for protecting critical coastal lands by passing the Coastal and Estuarine Land Protection Act (HR 1907) by a vote of 313-59.

The bill authorizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to issue grants for conserving threatened lands in coastal and estuarine areas through the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP).

U.S. Representatives Jim Saxton (R-NJ) and Lois Capps (D-CA) lead the effort in the House and introduced the bill last year.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national land conservation organization, applauded Reps. Saxton and Capps and this bi partisan effort in support of protecting our remaining coastal open spaces in our nation’s coastal states.

“Given the importance of healthy, productive and accessible coastal areas, a federal commitment to state and local coastal protection is a much-needed sound investment,” said Alan Front, TPL’s Sr. Vice President. “The CELCP program has already provided millions to help local communities to protect vanishing coastal resources and to provide public access to their waterfronts and we look forward to realizing the benefits of this new legislation to protect more land for public benefit.”

“It took a few years to get CELCP through, but I’m proud that I introduced it in 2005, and I’m likewise proud that this is the final bill of my career,” said Saxton, whose South Jersey district includes three large bays, numerous barrier islands, designated wilderness, estuarine areas and a National Wildlife Refuge, as well as the largest share of the 1.1 million-acre National Pineslands Preserve. “Coastal areas remain under tremendous pressure by developers. Preserving land both lessens the impact of development, and protects wildlife habitat.”

“Now more than ever, the pressures of development along our coast threaten wildlife habitat, historic sites and open space,” said Capps, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee. “That’s why we need to formally establish this vital conservation program within NOAA. Protection of these lands is essential if we hope to provide public access, preserve our common heritage and maintain a healthy coastal environment.”

CELCP was created by Congress in FY 2002 in order to “protect those coastal and estuarine areas with significant conservation, recreation, ecological, historical or aesthetic values, or that are threatened by conversion from their natural or recreational states to other uses.”

Thus far, the program has invested over $200 million towards more than 150 conservation projects in 26 coastal states and territories, leveraging at least an equal amount from non-federal sources so communities can protect their most critical coastal resources. These areas include an 18-mile stretch of land along the Pacific Ocean in San Luis Obispo County, California; land on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, Louisiana; and lands along the James River in Jamestown, Virginia; Barnegat Bay, New Jersey; Tillamook Bay, Oregon; Maquoit Bay, Maine; East Sandusky Bay, Ohio; and the Isinglass River, New Hampshire.

A similar bill, S. 1142, was introduced last year in the Senate by U.S. Senators Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ).

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 Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, Forest Legacy Program, Land & Water Conservation Fund, state and local open-space funds, and other public and private investments, TPL has helped to protect more than 2.5 million acres across the country. TPL depends upon the support of individuals, foundations and corporations.