The Trust for Public Land Supports Budget Investment in Parks

President Obama’s budget for the next fiscal year invests in protecting land across the nation and will benefit local economies and American families, The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, said Monday.

“These conservation programs benefit all Americans, from the inner cities to our wilderness areas,” said Kathy DeCoster, Vice President of The Trust for Public Land. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been cut to unacceptably low levels and we are pleased to see President Obama propose robust funding for this popular program which has been so effective at protecting land and parks and creating recreation in communities across the nation.”

The President’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget, for the year beginning Oct. 1, 2012, proposes to restore funds to the LWCF at $450 million, a level that allows important local, state and federal conservation and outdoor recreation projects to move ahead. LWCF was created by Congress in 1965 and is authorized to receive $900 million a year, an amount that has only been realized once in the program’s 45 years, from fees paid to the federal government to lease oil and gas sites. That figure is only a small portion of the lease revenues, which average $6 billion a year. “As we face a difficult economy, it is more important than ever to invest in outdoor recreation and protect lands for the future. We are thankful that President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar agree,” said Ms. DeCoster.

“LWCF is a unique program in that it is not funded out of taxpayer dollars,” Ms. DeCoster said. Since 1978, receipts from offshore oil and gas drilling have been deposited in a Treasury account specifically authorized for LWCF activities and are intended as a conservation offset. “This funding is essential to local, state and federal parks and recreation, which enhance the quality of life in towns and cities across the nation and help attract new residents and businesses and thus local revenue,” said DeCoster.

Outdoor recreation includes hunting, fishing, camping, climbing, hiking, paddling, skiing, mountain biking, and wildlife watching, and contributes $730 billion annually to the American economy along with supporting 6.5 million jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Foundation.

TPL also expressed support for the budget’s focus on conservation in America’s cities, where 80 per cent of the population lives. The budget calls for increased funding for programs that support creating parks in cities, conserving land as community forests, [and supporting military base buffer areas]. “Making sure more Americans, especially children, have access to close-to-home parks and forests is a wise investment in our future,” said DeCoster.

Research done by TPL’s Center for City Park Excellence (CCPE) has demonstrated that when cities invest in parks, economic benefits follow through increased property values and the creation of jobs. CCPE works to make cities more successful through the renewal of parks for cities’ social and economic benefits.

For LWCF programs, Obama proposed $60 million for matching grants to states and local governments for outdoor recreation projects and urban parks, and $270 million for land protection by the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service. The remaining $120 million will go towards matching grant programs that further wildlife habitat and forest protection, as well as a small amount for the cost of federal land appraisal work.

LWCF has saved threatened properties and created new local parks and open spaces throughout the nation. For example, the President’s budget includes funding for the Middle Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge, located in the city of Albuquerque. This project is the culmination of years of effort to protect the Price’s Dairy property, a 570-acre parcel along the Rio Grande, and is very strongly supported by the local citizens, the city and especially Bernalillo County, which has already committed $5 million to the project.

For community forests, President Obama’s budget proposes $4 million for the Community Forest Program, twice the level approved last year by Congress. In New England alone The Trust for Public Land has worked over the last decade to conserve more than 24,000 acres of community forests with 12 communities.

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 more than 3 million acres across the country.