Roosevelt, Conservation Groups Urge Ample Funding

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(02/03/1997) - WASHINGTON D.C. -- Congress should step up funding for public land and wildlife protection or expect even more serious impacts on these resources, Theodore Roosevelt IV and more than 150 environmental, conservation, and recreaion groups said this afternoon.

"Given the overwhelming importance of these resources to present and future generations of Americans, the only fiscally responsible course is to invest adequately in their stewardship and management even as we take needed steps to balance the federal budget," Roosevelt wrote in letters to congressional leaders and President Clinton.

The letters went to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO). Roosevelt, the great-grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, is Managing Director at Lehman Brothers in New York City.

Funding for natural resources, $12.4 billion this fiscal year, accounts for less than one percent of the $1.63 trillion federal budget.

As Congress awaits the President's proposed budget, due Thursday, Roosevelt and the organizations ticked off concrete examples of negative impacts resulting from years of inadequate funding. Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, and other national parks have had to close popular campgrounds. Important wildlife habitat has been subdivided. Trails in national wildlife refuges, including the manager of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, have been left unfilled.

"America's public lands and resources belong to--and benefit--all citizens in numerous ways," Roosevelt wrote. "They represent a magnificent natural heritage that will be squandered without adequate commitment of funding to support dedicated staff and other resources necessary for proper stewardship."

The letter presented to Lott recommended annual increases in lands and wildlife funding over the the next six years, starting with a 4.6 percent boost for Fiscal Year 1998. The funding is included in the annual Interior appropriations bill, which covers the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), recieves for land aquisition, drawn from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

That Fund recieves $900 million each year, mainly from offshore oil and gas royalties, but last year only $149 million--or 16 percent--of that money was invested in land. The rest was siphoned off for other uses. A broad coalition has formed to ight for greater appropriations from the fund.

The organizations behind today's initiative pointed out that the modest increase they propose will not prevent Congress from moving towards a balanced budget. There are many places to reduce outlays, a large number of which will be documented in a "Green Scissors" report to be issued Tuesday.

In urging adoption of these "modest and prudent recommendations," Roosevelt cited a number of the benefits derived from national lands, including cleaner air and water, protection of wildlife, income for businesses that depend on healthy lands, and "our deeply rooted national ethic to keep America alive and thriving."

A list of the more than 150 groups endorsing the budget initiative is available upon request.


CEO QUOTES ON PUBLIC LANDS & WILDLIFE FUNDING

"In these times of tight budgets we are forced to talk about creating priorities for funding. We are letting Congress know today that we place our National Parks, Refuges, and Forests in the top tier of that list. Without adequate funds, these national treasures will decay and future generations will lose out on a priceless inheritance. Congress should cut the tens of billions of dollars in corporate welfare programs which cost the taxpayer money and hurt the environment . . . such as the below-cost timber sales which subsidize the timber industry, and the fossil energy subsidies which pamper the oil and gas companies. These savings should be used to protect our environment, public lands and wildlife." - Gene Karpinski, Executive Director, U.S.PIRG.

"The fact that Theodore Roosevelt IV is one of the leaders on our coalition statement is symbolic for two reasons first, as a noted Wall Street financier, he knows the importance of investing in our public lands and wildlife to ensure their future health and value; second, like his great-grandfather, he is a Republican conservationist who recognizes that protection of lands and wildlife has been a bipartisan endeavor in most Congresses. We are calling on the new Congress to renounce the environmental polarization of the 104th Congress. We are asking them to work together to protect the national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests and the endangered species and other imperilled wildlife that are the heritage of all Americans." - Rodger Schlickeisen, President, Defenders of Wildlife

"We are failing future generations. At current funding levels, this country simply cannot take good care of the national parks, forests, and other lands belonging to all Americans. The modest increases we propose are investments that will pay dividends far into the future, and we owe it to future generation to make those investments. It is the height of hypocrisy for Congress to use taxpayers' money to subsidize mining, livestock grazing, and clearcutting on our national lands and then claim that there is no money to invest in the protection of this natural legacy." - William H. Meadows, President, The Wilderness Society

"America's national parks and public lands are the cornerstone of our natural heritage. Congress and the Administration have a responsibility to provide the necessary funds to see that heritage preserved and protected," - John Adams, Executive Director, Natural Resources Defense Council

"For several years, Congress has not authorized enough money for the national parks, endangering irreplaceable natural and cultural resources, and forcing park personnel to cut back on visitor services. Today's very modest proposal calls on Congress to make a better choice. Congress can protect our national parks by providing adequate and steady funding sufficient to preserve them for future generations. The fate of our National Park System is in the hands of members of Congress." - Paul Pritchard, President, National Parks & Conservation Association

"These aren't frills and they can't be deferred. Funding for programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund must be increased now to maintain the nation's environmental infrastructure." - Mart V Rosen, President, Trust for Public Land

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270