President Clinton Signs Landmark Conservation Funding Package

(10/11/2000) - Washington, DC - October 11, 2000 - "Conservation in the United States today took a giant step forward when President Clinton signed an historic funding package providing billions of dollars in new, dedicated funding for a broad range of federal and state conservation programs," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife.

The funding package is the product of efforts over the past two years by the Clinton-Gore Administration, Congressional supporters, and conservation interests, and has been included in the Conference Report on H.R. 4578, the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2001. The House overwhelmingly passed the conference report on October 3 by a vote of 349-68. The Senate vote, on October 5, was 83 to 13.

"For federal and state land acquisition programs, the legislation establishes a new, multi-year, multi-billion dollar, dedicated fund that replaces the current paper funding authorization that in years past has only led to ever larger ‘conservation deficits’," said Schlickeisen.

"These critically needed funds will help protect the last vestiges of open space, wildlife habitat, and wildlands across our country before they are lost forever."

The package sets aside dedicated funding over the next six years for numerous conservation programs, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Although the LWCF was established in 1964 to provide significant annual funding for federal and state land purchases for conservation and recreation purposes, the program has been chronically underfunded by past congresses and presidents, who have diverted the funding to other programs. Funding is also provided for other important conservation programs including ones to aid endangered species and other declining wildlife, fight urban sprawl, preserve forest land, protect coasts, and promote historic preservation. Over the next six years, the dedicated fund for all the programs totals $12 billion - almost all of which is new funding.

The funding package is a compromise between a Lands Legacy proposal made by President Clinton in his February budget request to Congress, popular bipartisan legislation called the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) and a proposal made during negotiations by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA). CARA has the overwhelming support of environmentalists, mayors, recreational interests, historic preservationist advocates and others, but with congress rushing to adjournment, time is running out on this legislation before it can be finalized and approved by the Senate. Efforts to approve the bill continue, but the Senate’s majority leader has thus far declined to take it to the full Senate for a vote.

"Everyone who cares about the future of conservation in the U.S. should send a huge ‘thank you’ to Rep. Norm Dicks and the Clinton-Gore White House who together led the negotiators to this amazing agreement," said Schlickeisen.

The agreement also sets aside funding for coastal and marine conservation that must still be allocated to specific programs in the Commerce-Justice-State appropriations bill, but environmentalists remain concerned over efforts underway in the Senate to allow these funds to be used for harmful activities in the coastal zone. Harmful uses of coastal funding has been one of the points of contention in the CARA legislation. "These precious conservation dollars are needed to protect the fragile coastal zone, not further damage it with new roads, ports, and other harmful infrastructure, " Schlickeisen declared.

Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit conservation organization recognized as one of the nation’s most progressive advocates for wildlife and its habitat. With more than 430,000 members and supporters, Defenders of Wildlife is an effective leader on endangered species issues.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270