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House Subcommittee Axes Fund: Hunting, Fishing, Parks, And Battlefields to Feed Unrelated Spending
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Washington, DC— Despite strong bipartisan support in Congress and among Americans across the country, an Appropriations Subcommittee in the House of Representatives today approved a bill that would eliminate America’s premier conservation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  In a move that is being met with immediate and strong opposition from sportsmen, business leaders, and a wide range of partners, the bill for the first time in history proposes to divert the entire $900 million in oil and gas revenues credited annually to LWCF for unrelated spending, leaving nothing for the fund's authorized purposes.


The proposal to wipe out LWCF is part of a House Interior Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014 that includes a host of other program eliminations and massive budget cuts that, if enacted, would represent an unprecedented rollback of America’s bipartisan tradition of conservation investment.  These stark cuts in natural resource programs are a direct result of the larger budget process in the House, which slashed the funding available to the Subcommittee by over $5 billion, or nearly 20 percent, from current-year levels.

"Americans expect offshore oil and gas revenues to go where they were told they would go: protecting working lands, expanding outdoor recreation opportunities, and conserving public land access for future generations,” said Miles Moretti, President of the Mule Deer Foundation.  "Axing America’s premier conservation program is bad for the economy, bad for sportsmen, and bad for Americans.” 

For nearly 50 years, LWCF has been the nation’s primary tool to conserve parks, wildlife refuges, forests, rivers, trails, battlefields, historic and cultural sites, urban parks and playgrounds and other important federal, state and local public lands.  In past years, LWCF revenues – which by law come from the sale of offshore oil and gas resources, not from tax dollars –have often been raided to some extent to offset other spending, but never to the degree proposed in the bill.  Meanwhile, the Senate’s 2014 budget proposes fully funding LWCF and ending the chronic diversions of these receipts, and the President’s budget also recommends significant increases, not cuts, to LWCF.

If it became law, the bill would deal a blow to America’s $646 billion outdoor recreation economy, and to communities across the nation that rely on public lands and outdoor amenities to meet local needs and to attract workers and businesses.  For example, the proposal would halt the efforts of ranchers to conserve working lands and duck habitat in the Dakota Grasslands in North and South Dakota; the work of sportsmen to expand access tohunting and fishing opportunities on public lands in Montana; the investment in working forests in Maine and Idaho; the protection of hallowed ground at Civil War battlefields at the moment we are celebrating its Sesquicentennial; the creation and improvement of parks in the towns and cities where 80% of Americans live and work; and locally-driven efforts to improve the national trail system, including the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Vermont, and along the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail in California, Oregon, and Washington.

"Millions of American families enjoy the outdoors because the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has helped create parks and save land," said Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land.  "It has been one of the most important and effective conservation tools in the past 50 years, and cutting all spending for it would be a real disservice to an American public which has time and time again voiced its support for federal, state, and local land conservation.”

The House’s action today stands in sharp contrast to mainstream, bipartisan efforts in Congress to support LWCF.  Recent letters urging the Appropriations Committees to dedicate robust funding for LWCF in Fiscal Year 2014 were signed by 157 House members and 48 Senators, including Republicans and Democrats – indicating a level of support that is rarely seen on any issue in Washington.

President Obama’s budget proposed $600 million for LWCF in 2014 and full funding beginning in 2015.  In addition, on March 23, with the leadership of Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), the U.S. Senate passed a Budget Resolution that would enable full funding of LWCF.  Bipartisan legislation to fully fund LWCF, S.338, was also recently introduced by Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).  S.338 has now gained 27 sponsors, a number which continues to grow.

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