Conservationists Applaud Clinton's Conservation Vision into the 21st Century

Proposal Sets Precedent for Full Funding of Land and Water Conservation Fund

(01/12/1999) - Defenders of Wildlife today applauded the Clinton administration for its historic commitment to allocating $1 billion to the Lands Legacy Initiative in the FY 2000 budget and creating a permanent fund for future years. At a speech at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC, President Clinton outlined a vision for the future that challenges Congress to help solve the problems of suburban growth and sprawl by expanding federal efforts to save America's natural treasures not only in 2000 but for years to come. In this initiative, the president proposed full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a funding source created by Congress in 1964 for federal, state, and local park and recreation lands. It marks the first time any President has ever requested this level of funding. More than two decades ago, Congress authorized a yearly allocation of $900 million for the LWCF, but only a small portion of the money has historically been allocated. Currently the fund contains an unappropriated balance of more than $12 billion - on paper. The fund presently draws revenues primarily from federal offshore oil leases.

"President Clinton's pledge for a green heritage could prove one of the most important legacies of his eight years in office," says Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. "Every American should let their members of Congress know that this is a great beginning to meet the challenge of habitat loss and species decline due to sprawl. Our children and grandchildren will either face the consequences of this continuing trend, or reap the benefits of America's natural treasures, vibrant wildlife habitat, preserved green spaces, and protected oceans and coasts. "

A scientific study released by Defenders of Wildlife warns that many ecosystems are at a "biological breaking point" across the country. Endangered Ecosystems: A Status Report on America's Vanishing Habitat and Wildlife underscores the extent of decline of natural ecosystems, imperiled species, and the impacts of development trends.

The Clinton Administration's Lands Legacy Initiative is historically the largest one-year investment to protect America's land quality. The 2000 budget proposal is a 125 percent increase over last year and would expand federal conservation efforts.

In addition, the president is calling on Congress to extend permanent wilderness protection to more than 5 million acres within 17 national parks and monuments including Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, Great Smoky Mountains, and Cumberland Gap. The initiative would also increase federal land acquisition funding for lands critical to the ongoing restoration of Florida's Everglades.

The initiative proposes an additional $80 million for the cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, for state and local land acquisition to protect threatened and endangered species. "All defenders of wildlife know that today is a critically needed step to save endangered and threatened species. The gray wolves, the black bears and the family of creatures that make up the web of life are cheering the President's efforts," says Schlickeisen. "Nature is running out of room, and our wildlife heritage needs room to survive."

By proposing significant new resources to states and local communities the Clinton-Gore Administration is working to forge a new conservation vision for the 21st century -- one that recognizes the importance of preserving irreplaceable pieces of our natural legacy within easy reach of every citizen. In addition to President Clinton and Vice President Gore, credit and recognition for the Lands Legacy Initiative goes to offiicals at the Department of Interior, the Council for Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270