Bipartisan coalition of senators calls for ‘strong investment’ in important land conservation programs

News Release — Sen. Patrick Leahy
April 10, 2014

MEDIA CONTACTS
David Carle (Leahy) – (202) 224-3693
Rachel Hicks (Burr) – (202) 228-1616
Liz Kenigsberg (Shaheen) – (202) 224-5553
Kevin Kelley (Collins) – (202) 224-2523

(Washington, DC) – A bipartisan coalition of 51 senators are urging the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies to support the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and Forest Legacy programs as they begin considerations for the upcoming fiscal year. In a letter led by U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the bipartisan group of Senators asked Subcommittee Chairman Jack Reed and Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski for a “a strong investment in LWCF and Forest Legacy that will support public land conservation and ensure access to the outdoors for all Americans.”

“We firmly believe that LWCF and Forest Legacy are important programs to ensure continued access to public lands for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities – an important and unique aspect of our American heritage,” the Senators wrote in a letter delivered Wednesday. “Continued investments in these programs help our nation’s outdoor recreation, conservation and preservation economy, which supports millions of American jobs and contributes billions of dollars annually to the entire U.S. economy.”

The letter requests adequate funding levels in the FY 2015 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for LCWF and Forest Legacy Programs, which protect natural resource lands, outdoor recreation opportunities and working forests at the local, state and federal levels so that wildlife habitats, hunting and fishing access, state and local parks, Civil War battlefields, productive forests and other important lands are protected for current and future generations. Leahy is the “father” of the Forest Legacy Program and is the most senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Thanks to the Land & Water Conservation Fund more Americans are able to get outside and experience our nation’s network of parks, waters and trails,” said Kirk Bailey, vice president of government affairs for Outdoor Industry Association. “Furthermore, LWCF has protected and invested in recreation access in every state in the nation, and 98 percent of U.S. counties, which directly supports the $646 billion outdoor recreation economy and 6.1 million American jobs. OIA applauds the leadership of Sens. Shaheen, Leahy, Burr and Collins, and their colleagues in the Senate for recognizing that fully funding the Land & Water Conservation Fund is an investment in America’s future.”

In their request, the Senators note that “strong and consistent funding for both LWCF and Forest Legacy” is critical given that LWCF, now in its 50th year, and Forest Legacy have been chronically underfunded, which has created a large backlog of conservation needs across the country. As a result, the Senators said, the “uncertainty has led states and federal land management agencies to postpone or cancel many important projects,” impacting the national outdoor recreation, conservation and preservation economy.

“We are so grateful for the leadership of Senators Leahy, Shaheen, Burr and Collins on conservation funding programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Forest Legacy Program,” said Rodger Krussman, NH/VT Director for The Trust for Public Land. “These important programs protect our natural resources, our drinking water, and our way of life in northern New England. Future funding will strengthen our economy by ensuring our valuable private forests remain productive, and everyone has access to recreation across the region.”

The full text of the Senators’ letter is here.

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