Press Release – WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Trump Administration’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget released today proposes to gut funding for America’s irreplaceable natural resources, specifically targeting America’s most important conservation and outdoor recreation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Conservation leaders from the LWCF Coalition reacted to the President’s reckless budget proposal, which jeopardizes our national parks and puts all of America’s public lands at risk.
“The Administration’s extreme proposal to wipe out the Land and Water Conservation Fund – funding that protects our national parks and other public lands – is completely out of step with the wishes and desires of the American people,” said Tom Cors, Director of Government Relations for Lands at The Nature Conservancy and a spokesman for the LWCF Coalition. “The conservation of our national parks and outdoor heritage has always been an area of bipartisan agreement and overwhelming public support. Our public lands are a defining aspect of our national character – providing access for people to hunt, fish, hike, camp, experience the incomparable beauty of the United States, and participate in our robust outdoor recreation economy. This harmful budget proposal will pull the rug out from under landowners and communities alike, cancelling vital public access and conservation projects. Conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts across the country must speak out and oppose this attack on America’s public lands.”
The Administration’s proposed cuts to LWCF would virtually eliminate funding to protect national parks, Civil War battlefields, and other national lands, and would frustrate efforts to secure public access for sportsmen and recreationists. For more than 50 years, these programs have delivered on-the-ground conservation achievements to every state in the union and have provided particularly necessary benefits to rural America and the small communities that depend upon the hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation economy for economic development.
Recent LWCF funding has secured vital protections and access for Grand Teton and Rocky Mountain National Parks, Gettysburg National Military Park, and other iconic American places. Critical now-or-never needs remain all across the country, including key sites along the Appalachian Trail, Redwood National Park in California, and Montana’s Lolo National Forest.
“Cuts of this magnitude to LWCF would do real, irreversible damage to the national parks and public lands that Americans care so deeply about and depend on for close-to-home outdoor recreation,” Cors continued. “Moreover, LWCF is not funded by taxpayer dollars but from fees collected from offshore oil and gas extraction. These cuts would siphon off dedicated conservation dollars for unrelated spending, breaking a 50-year-old promise to the American people that the royalties generated from offshore oil and gas drilling are reinvested into protecting our National Parks, providing hunting and fishing access, trails and open spaces.”
“LWCF cuts would hit rural America, sportsmen, anglers and the outdoor recreation economy especially hard. LWCF leverages four dollars in private capital for every conservation dollar invested. Hunting, fishing, outdoor recreation, conservation and historic preservation activities support 9.4 million jobs and contribute more than a trillion dollars annually to the U.S. economy.”
It is important to remember that Presidential Budget submissions are only proposals. The LWCF Coalition will continue to work with lawmakers in Congress who understand the importance of continuing to reinvest royalties from offshore energy development into lasting natural infrastructure: our land, outdoor recreation economy, access to hunting and angling opportunities, water resources, and the history and culture of our great nation. The Administration’s equally damaging proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 was soundly rejected by Congress, with both the House and Senate bills recommending far higher funding levels for LWCF.
LWCF is overwhelmingly popular with the American people and has maintained broad bipartisan support over its half century history of successful, locally-driven conservation. Majorities in the House and Senate support legislation to permanently reauthorize the program. In September of 2015, Congress temporarily allowed the program’s authorization to expire. After a massive outcry, it was reauthorized for three additional years at the end of 2015. The clock is now ticking down again, and champions from both sides of the aisle have vowed not to let LWCF expire.
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