The Trust for Public Land Praises Congress for Increasing LWCF

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, praised Congress today for increasing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the nation’s main program for protecting land across the country. Congress today approved a spending bill for the current fiscal year which includes $322.9 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a 7% increase from last year.

“We are pleased Congress increased this program,” said Will Rogers, TPL President. “At a time of difficult budget choices, this decision shows the bipartisan and widespread support for this important program, which is not paid for with taxpayer dollars. This program protects lands and supports local economies across the nation, including city parks and trails, Civil War battlefields and places important to our history, forests and forestry jobs in rural areas, and lands important to states and local communities across the country.”

LWCF, created in 1965, is paid for by oil companies through royalties from offshore oil and gas leases.

LWCF also provides money to states for recreation and park enhancements, the federal Forest Legacy Program, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Cooperative Endangered Species Program.

Rogers said, “The Trust for Public Land greatly appreciates the hard work of Democratic and Republican supporters who ensured this program received strong and robust funding in the fiscal year which began Oct. 1.”

Rogers said, “In particular, we salute the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate Interior Appropriations, Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK); House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), Interior and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID); Reps. Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Jim Moran (D-VA) from the Interior and Environment subcommittee; and Reps. Charlie Bass (R-NH), Jay Inslee (D-WA), Jim Gerlach (R-PA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mike Thompson (D-CA), GK Butterfield (D-NC), Heath Shuler (D-NC), Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Scott Tipton (R-CO).

While Congress did increase the program, Rogers noted the LWCF spending level is still far below the $900 million originally promised by Congress for LWCF. President Obama had proposed full funding in his original budget.

“The Trust for Public Land and the broad coalition of LWCF supporters will continue to work with Congress and the Obama Administration to ensure that LWCF receives full and dedicated funding,” said Rogers.

Since 1965, LWCF has added millions of acres to America’s national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, national trails, state and local parks, and other protected lands. In recent years, however, steep declines in annual funding through the program have led to an enormous backlog of priority conservation properties, and to incompatible and often devastating development within these otherwise protected public assets.

Increased spending in the LWCF conservation account could help protect lands around the country which may otherwise be lost. These projects include:

  • The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in the Los Angeles basin.
  • Sierra Nevada forests in California
  • Working forests in Maine, Montana, and New Hampshire
  • Lands protecting rivers and creeks in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina
  • Lands adjacent to Sturgeon River Wild and Scenic River in northern Michigan

The FY 12 omnibus appropriations bill also provides level funding for a host of other conservation programs and allocates $2 million—twice last year’s level—to the new Community Forest Program, which The Trust for Public Land worked to create in the 2008 Farm Bill.

“This level of funding for the Community Forest Program will ensure that this important new program, designed to meet local community needs and protect close-to-home forests for the public, will be able to provide grants for community forest protection in the coming year,” said Rogers. “The Trust for Public Land is particularly grateful to Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT), a true champion of forests that benefit local community needs.”

The Trust for Public Land is the nation’s leading organization for building parks in cities across the country, and in creating local funds for conservation. Since it was founded in 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres across the country. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations.