Budget Pages Contain 'Holy Grail' for Conservationists

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(02/07/2000) - Washington, D.C. - Reacting to the Clinton Administration’s FY 2001 budget proposal, conservationists today said that the proposed call for permanent, full funding of the nation’s land and wildlife legacy is the most significant conservation budget plan to date.

"Within the reams of paper in the budget proposal is a plan that has been something akin to the Holy Grail for the environmental community," noted Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife and chair of a coalition of conservation organizations working on Lands Legacy. "We have long sought permanent and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The Administration’s budget proposal would provide a record $1.4 billion for Lands Legacy in FY 2001 and includes permanent and full funding for federal LWCF projects."

"The term ‘legacy’ is not merely political here because there is no greater legacy that this Administration and this Congress can leave to future generations than protecting our land and wildlife heritage. This is rightfully a bipartisan endeavor because we are talking about a heritage that provides not only recreation and wilderness, but ultimately sustains food, water, air, and shelter for us all," Schlickeisen added.

The Defenders president noted that, "The LWCF was originally created to provide permanent conservation funding from oil and gas royalties, but year after year, Congress and the President have habitually reneged on the promise. Even as opportunities to protect our national parks slipped away, millions of acres of open space were swallowed up by development while more and more species were pushed to brink of extinction."

The President’s budget released today proposes $1.4 billion for Lands Legacy in FY 2001 – a 93 percent increase over the $652 million secured last year -- and directs the funds toward federal, state, and local efforts to protect America’s land, wildlife, and coastal resources. The Administration calls it "the largest one-year investment ever requested for conserving America’s lands."

Defenders says it is most significant that the President proposes a new budget category to ensure permanent funding at this level in future years. Although specific appropriations within the $1.4 billion cap would be decided each year, funds could not be spent on purposes other than Lands Legacy.

"This creates a permanent fund for future generations rather than the current paper authorization that in years past most often got diverted elsewhere," Schlickeisen said.

According to the Clinton Administration, the Lands Legacy priorities include:

Federal Share:

The budget proposes $450 million, a 7 percent increase, for federal efforts to save natural and historic treasures. Priorities for FY 2001 include:

  • Completing the acquisition of more than 180,000 acres in California’s Mojave Desert;
  • Protecting important sites along the historic Lewis and Clark Trail;
  • Making additions to wildlife refuges and national forests in New England;
  • Acquiring lands critical to the ongoing restoration of Florida’s Everglades;
  • Protecting Civil War battlefields in Maryland, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia;
  • Preserving ancient sequoias in California’s Sierra Nevada;
  • Protecting bayous and bottomland hardwood forests in the Lower Mississippi Delta.

For State and Local Governments:

Proposed FY 2001 Lands Legacy priorities dedicate more than half the funding to state and local conservation.$521 million, almost four times current funding, is included to help states and communities protect wildlife and local green spaces. Of that amount, $150 million is for matching grants to states for the acquisition of land and easements for parks, greenways, outdoor recreations, wildlife habitat, and coastal wetlands; $50 million is for a new program of grants, contracts, and technical assistance to state and local governments to develop "smart growth" plans for open space preservation and strategies to manage urban growth; $65 million is for state and local government land acquisition to protect threatened and endangered species; $100 million is for a grant program proposed to assist states in protecting non-game wildlife populations; $30 million is for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund; $60 million is for the Forest Legacy Program; $40 million is for the urban and community forestry program and the rest is for new "smart growth partnerships" and the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Fund.

Ocean and Coastal Resources:

The budget proposes $429 million, a 159 percent increase, to protect ocean and coastal resources, including a new $100 million impact assistance program to help coastal states address environmental impacts of existing offshore oil and gas development. It also includes $159 for the coastal zone management program, $35 million for national marine sanctuaries, $20 million for national estuarine research reserves, and $15 million for coral reef restoration.

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270