The Land and Water Conservation Fund: Responding to a Need for Outdoor Recreation
Prepared for the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on the Americans Outdoors Act, S. 2590, July 20, 2004.
Statement of Henry L. Diamond
Mr. Chairman, and members of the Committee, my name is Henry Diamond, and I am pleased to appear before you today on behalf of Americans for our Heritage and Recreation (AHR). AHR is an unusually broad and diverse organization ranging from urban communities to wilderness advocates.
I appear here today as Chairman of AHR, but my primary occupation is as a partner in the law firm of Beveridge & Diamond. I have been involved with the Land and Water Conservation Fund for a long time. As Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, I administered the Fund for New York and saw its great impact. As editor of the reports of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, I helped formulate the Commission's recommendations which led to the creation of the Fund.
The Chairman of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission was Laurance S. Rockefeller, whom we lost last week. He always cited the creation of the Fund as one of his outstanding achievements, and indeed it is a monument to his leadership. Now more than ever, we must re-affirm and rededicate ourselves to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you and the full Committee for holding this hearing on S. 2590, and for providing AHR with the opportunity to testify on the importance of permanent and adequate conservation and recreation funding. We salute the sponsors of S. 2590, Senators Alexander and Landrieu, for introducing this legislation and reaffirming Congress' commitment to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund - Responding to a Need for Outdoor Recreation
In 1958, Congress created the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission to inventory and identify natural resources, and make policy recommendations to meet the growing public demand for outdoor recreation. The report was presented in 1962 and called on a partnership among all levels of government - the centerpiece being the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Three years later in response to the Commission's report, Congress passed the "Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965," and with it, the promise to protect our natural and recreational resources for future generations. For more than 40 years, LWCF has faithfully fulfilled its mission to conserve, develop, and utilize outdoor recreation resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people.
Initially, three sources of revenue to the fund were designated: proceeds from sales of surplus federal real property, motorboat fuel taxes, and fees for recreation use of federal lands. The level of funding from FY 1966 through FY 1968 reached about $100 million per year, which was far short of Congress' expectations. To remedy this shortfall, Congress amended the Act to include Outer Continental shelf (OCS) mineral leasing receipts as part of the funding stream. LWCF's increase in authorized funding to its current level came in June 1977, when Congress augmented it to $900 million.
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan called on Senator Lamar Alexander, then governor of Tennessee, to chair a new Commission on Americans Outdoors. The Commission report issued in 1987 found many threats to the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, including loss of space through urban growth, pollutants, and disappearance of wetlands. Most importantly, it found that budget cuts to conservation programs were undermining efforts to provide access to recreation and that "the quality of the outdoor estate remains precarious." The report went on to recommend that Congress should dedicate at least $1 billion a year from offshore oil and gas drilling revenues to provide a steady and reliable flow of funds to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The success of the Land and Water Conservation Fund has resulted in the conservation and protection of more than five million acres of land and water areas across the country. Since its inception in 1964, LWCF has created, consolidated, and improved more than 700 different federal land areas. Notable projects to which LWCF funds have gone include:
Coupled with the stateside LWCF program, more than 40,000 projects have been developed in 98 percent of the counties in America. While my testimony today will concentrate on the federal side of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, I want to point out that AHR is committed to full funding of the entire program at its $900 million authorized level, with an equitable allocation of funds between its federal and state grant programs. In addition, AHR supports a revived and substantially funded Urban Park and Recreation Recovery program (UPARR). We view all three programs as integral tools in providing Americans places to get outdoors.
AHR also supports the addition of the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) to the final bill. The HPF provides matching grants to encourage private and non-federal investment in historic preservation efforts nationwide. The HPF is legislatively authorized to receive OCS revenues and complements the work of state recreation and wildlife grants through conservation of historic and cultural treasures.
A new conservation program, called Forest Legacy, was developed in the 1990's to preserve working forestlands and protect critical forest resources. The program has a proven record of assisting private landowners, leveraging non-federal funds, and ensuring conservation benefits like many of the other programs included in S. 2590. AHR believes this program provides creative and innovative land protections for the twenty-first century. In fact, the demand for this program has exceeded $250 million for the past several years. As the Committee considers additions to S. 2590, we would encourage including Forest Legacy in the reported bill.
40 Years of Bi-Partisan Presidential Support for LWCF LWCF continues to be the premier tool available to the American people to permanently protect our most valuable and vulnerable lands. The LWCF federal land acquisition program has been integral in establishing and maintaining our country's priceless network of national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges that is the envy of the world.
Every President of the United States since Lyndon B. Johnson has submitted annual budgets calling for Congress to expend a portion of the authorized Land and Water Conservation Fund to acquire conservation lands. Just this year, President Bush submitted in his FY 05 budget request to Congress that $220 million be spent for federal land acquisitions. President Bush has said, "Our legacy should be an unwavering commitment to preserve and conserve our treasured lands - a commitment I intend to keep."
Congress has worked hand in hand with the White House during these 40 years to honor the principle of the Land and Water Conservation Fund - using the sale of proceeds of one capital asset to buy another - into an ongoing program for park and open space protection. In fact, federal funding of LWCF is less than four-tenths of one percent of the total U.S. Budget.
To date, there is still approximately a $10 billion backlog in land acquisition projects that have been identified by the federal land agencies. Most of these projects come about due to the interest of a willing private landowner and the cooperation of the state's congressional delegation. In fact, in FY 02 and 03 combined, 84 percent of LWCF appropriations went to the purchase/acquisition of inholdings as opposed to expansion or dedication of new areas.
Federal LWCF - Flexible Integrated Solutions for the Twenty-First Century
The ability to preserve land across a continuum of jurisdictions - federal, state, and local - is critical to the increasing struggle to preserve what remains of our nation's dwindling open space. Indeed, the need is now more urgent than it was in 1965 at the inception of the Fund. Population has boomed beyond projections; land has been gobbled up faster than we thought, and we have come to understand better the vital role protected lands play in the health of our ecosystem and our own well being.
On March 25, 2004, a representative from the Department of the Interior testified before Congress that "certain acquisitions of land or interests in lands are necessary, not only to achieve Departmental goals, but also to meet collaborative agreements with private property owners, States, local governments, and third party groups, improve or provide legal access to existing land, provide rights-of-way, and protect historical recreational and natural resources." [Statement of Robert Lamb, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Policy, Management and Budget]
One reason that federal LWCF has worked so well during the past 40 years is because of its flexibility. It is not simply a land-buying program, it does much more. The federal LWCF Act provides the authority to acquire land, provide agencies with the authority to make minor boundary changes, receive donated land, purchase land with donated funds, purchase easements on private lands, or transfer or exchange lands from other federal agencies.
For example, the Administration's FY 05 budget request includes a $2,000,000 request for Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Upper Snake / South Fork Snake River project in Idaho. Since 1991, Congress has appropriated $13 million to purchase more than 1,100 acres of fee and conservation easements on more than 3,000 acres. Other investments in this project area have been made by the Bonneville Power Administration, the Wetlands Reserve Program, and private conservation organizations.
Similarly, federal LWCF can be used for purchase of small, but strategic, parcels of land that mitigate future maintenance costs and provide safer public access to parks. For example, at Mt. Rainier National Park, 800 acres, a mixture of public and private land would allow a new road to be built on higher ground, reducing the maintenance cost of rebuilding the current road that is annually washed out by heavy rains. Even this small land purchase will receive a specific congressional authorization before LWCF funds will be appropriated.
And, the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon and Washington has been funded by LWCF for 15 years to help the U.S. Forest Service implement the congressionally-authorized national scenic area, which follows the Lewis and Clark expeditionary route along the Columbia River.
In 2002, Congress passed the Flight 93 Memorial Act to create a new unit of the National Park System to commemorate the bravery of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 who gave their lives in defense of the Nation's Capital. Local partners are working with the National Park Service to protect more than 1,000 acres of the crash site and associated viewshed, through a partnership involving the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the local county, landowners, and non-profit organizations. To begin the federal land acquisition, the President's Fiscal Year 2005 budget request to Congress included $2.2 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. If the federal LWCF funds are approved by Congress, they will leverage significant non-federal contributions, including an in-kind donation of land.
New or renovated parks and trails in communities around the country are proven catalysts for local economic development. LWCF investments in parks, forests, and wildlife areas generate tourism dollars and increase real estate values in adjacent gateway communities.
Finally, we would encourage the federal land managers to think creatively and use the federal LWCF for consolidation and land transfers among federal, state, and local agencies. Federal land agencies need to be given adequate resources to make this a priority during the life of S. 2590. These multi-agencies, multi-state transfers are tedious and difficult, but in the long-run, federal LWCF dollars used wisely could create new recreation opportunities for the public that are more cost effective.
The Americans Outdoors Act, S. 2590, will provide a conservation legacy for the next generation and provide the reliable stream of funding that has beleaguered the Land and Water Conservation Fund during the past 40 years. By integrating wildlife, coastal, state and urban parks, and federal land programs under a dedicated fund guided by Congress, future generations will inherit American landscapes resplendent with parks, trails, hunting and fishing areas, wetlands, and a more pristine environment.
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that regular physical activity is a crucial part of good health. Economists now predict that significant health care savings to state and federal governments could be achieved through increased physical activity and exercise. By providing access to places for physical activity, such as our parks, forests, and trails, LWCF has become an important tool in providing Americans access to outdoor recreation.
Given the conservation, recreation, and public health benefits inherent in the federal LWCF program, we urge the committee to amend S. 2590, the Americans Outdoors Act, to include $450 million for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Fund has proven to:
Ø conserve, develop, and utilize outdoor recreation resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people;
Ø provide federal land managers with key tools to integrate lands for more efficient management and better public access;
Ø assist private property owners with options to be reasonably compensated for decades of stewardship of their lands and their personal rights to dispense with their land as they wish;
Ø protect and preserve our nation's heritage for future generations and to encourage livable communities for a healthier population;
The need for a permanent, adequate LWCF is urgent. America's bounty is shrinking fast. Since 1960, the number of Americans has increased from 179 million to 255 million. Farmland andMarch 18, 2007at our population is growing, losing 2.3 million acres of open space a year to single family housing. Recent polling shows that voters are so concerned about protecting clean air and water and conserving the lands that help preserve water quality that they would support additional taxes to pay for protecting parks and wildlife areas.
Public investment to preserve the rapidly dwindling resource must have a guaranteed revenue stream so that our city, state, and federal managers can keep up and plan ahead for our children's future. Also, it provides for a timely process of acquisitions and easements to meet the requests of private land owners. The inconsistent record in providing the promised $900 million of LWCF during the past decade dramatically demonstrates why this legislation is essential.
Many of the decisions that will be made in the next six years cannot be put on hold; already we see the losses; already we pay the consequences in threatened water quality, loss of wildlife habitat, lack of neighborhood parks, and quality of life.
We look forward to achieving these goals by passage of the Americans Outdoors Act, S. 2590, that includes full funding of both the federal and stateside of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
STATEMENT OF CHARLES JORDAN
PREPARED FOR THECOMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
UNITED STATES SENATE
ON THEAMERICANS OUTDOORS ACT
JULY 20, 2004
Chairman Domenici, Ranking Member Bingaman and Members of the Committee, I wish to express my appreciation to you for holding today's hearing on the Americans Outdoors Act (S. 2590) and for the opportunity to testify on the provisions in the bill relating to the "stateside" component of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program (UPARR).
My testimony is based on my thirty-year career as a park official in Portland, Oregon and Austin, Texas, where I worked to provide recreational opportunities directly to the public. My testimony also draws upon my work with state and local park directors, the National Park Service and other federal land managing agencies. Currently, I serve as the Chairman of Board of The Conservation Fund, a national non-profit organization with a mission to protect wildlife habitat, historic sites, working landscapes and community open space. I am testifying in my personal capacity.
Before discussing the Americans Outdoors Act, I wish to express my appreciation to the Senate and the Congress for including funds for the stateside LWCF program in the Interior appropriations bills for the last several years. At the state and local level, these funds strengthen and promote partnerships between state, county and local governments and between public agencies, the non-profit sector, businesses and other stakeholders. Most importantly, these funds give local governments the financial tools they need to provide access to affordable leisure opportunities in a clean and safe environment.
President Bush's commitment to fund the stateside program in his budget requests, coupled with Congress's support for the President's requests, has revived the stateside program. This recent funding has also laid the foundation to fulfill the promise of the Land and Water Conservation Fund through dedicated funding, as embodied in the Americans Outdoors Act.
Senator Alexander and Senator Landrieu have performed a great service to our country by introducing the Americans Outdoors Act. This bipartisan legislation requires annual allocations of $450 million for stateside LWCF and $125 million for UPARR, along with funding for state wildlife grants and impact assistance to coastal communities.
Almost twenty years ago, I had the opportunity to serve as a commissioner with Senator Alexander, who chaired President Reagan's Commission on Americans Outdoors. To carry out the vision outlined by President Reagan, the Commission recommended expanding federal investments in state and local parks and open space conservation. Today, Senator Alexander's bill implements one of the Commission's top recommendations - to make the Land and Water Conservation Fund a dedicated trust to pay for land acquisition and for state and local facility development and rehabilitation. In the fourteen years since the Commission's report, the need for federal support for our states, counties, cities and towns has only grown.
Following my work on the Commission, I served as the director of the Department of Parks for the City of Portland, Oregon. During that time, I worked with my staff and partner organizations to ensure affordable and accessible recreational opportunities for all the city's residents.
To meet these goals across the country, park and recreation agencies at the state, regional, county and local levels are working to conserve open space, provide recreational facilities and promote outdoor recreation.
State and local parks provide the public with opportunities to go for a walk, run along a trail, bike along a stream or river, play team sports on a ball field, go for a swim in a municipal pool, enjoy a family picnic and engage in other activities. State parks also provide opportunities for camping, boating and hiking within a short drive of our cities and suburbs.
Thanks to the vision and leadership of Congress and this Committee, our country has the world's greatest system of National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges and other public lands. These national treasures are complemented by our country's great system of state and local parks, to form a network of parks and open space from the inner cities to our highest mountain peaks.
For most Americans, their only park and recreational experience is close to home, in their local neighborhood at a basketball court, tennis court, playground or local beach or within a days drive from home.
Mr. Chairman, at a time of international uncertainty and threats to our security at home, Americans need places in their neighborhood to escape from the stress of daily life more than ever.
Through parks and recreational programs, we build communities. Building communities means connecting people to their neighborhoods, one another and to the land.
Mr. Chairman, for more than thirty years, as I've traveled the country and visited my colleagues at the state and local level, I've seen the challenges facing many state and local parks agencies and community organizations, along with the benefits that stateside and UPARR funding can provide to cities, towns, small communities and to urban neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, conserving land and developing recreational infrastructure is expensive. These capital expenses must compete with increasing budget pressures to ensure public safety, educate our children and provide for other local infrastructure needs. Cities, counties and states are struggling to pay salaries for public safety personnel, teachers, park and recreation employees and other municipal employees. Despite these budgetary challenges, state and local governments are working to ensure that local recreational facilities and state parks are open, clean and safe.
In addition to providing recreational opportunities, many states are working to manage urban sprawl, changes in land tenure and decisions by large forestland owners to consolidate land holdings. In many states in the east, changes in land ownership patterns have created one-time opportunities to conserve large tracts of land for recreation, water quality and fish and wildlife habitat.
To meet these challenges, local leaders and the public have voted to support parks and open space conservation. Out of a total of 134 ballot measures in November 2003, voters approved 100 ballot initiatives to raise $1.8 billion in non-federal funding for land conservation. In many communities, the public understands that parks and recreational opportunities are not just amenities; they are necessary to promote local economic development to attract and retain businesses and jobs.
The Bush Administration and the Congress have also supported the stateside program in recent years. These dollars benefit people directly, by supporting a variety of projects on the ground, in all fifty states.
As a former parks director, I can testify that these annual appropriations are very much appreciated. Since 1971, Portland, Oregon has received $5.5 million to acquire land at six parks. While in the grand scheme of the federal budget this figure may seem small, at the local level this funding has had a big impact.
State and local governments are not asking the federal government to pay for operations and maintenance at state and local parks. State and local governments are asking the federal government to support this legislation to help pay for the one-time cost of land acquisition and facilities development through the 50/50 match program and to provide greater predictability for budgeting and long-range planning.
Supporters of full funding of the stateside program include the National Governor's Association, National Association of Counties, U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Recreation and Park Association, National Association of State Parks Directors, National Association of State Outdoor Recreation Liaison Officers and other organizations representing municipal governments and officials. In addition to local agencies, these funds will benefit many of our partners - the local Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, YWCAs and other groups.
By passing this bill, Congress can fulfill the original promise of a program that has a forty-year track record of success and which has funded over 40,000 projects in every corner of our country.
The funds that Congress provided for stateside LWCF have helped underserved neighborhoods and state open space programs throughout America and have yielded tremendous dividends for children, young people, young adults, families and senior citizens. These dividends are enjoyed by every income and ethnic group.
The stateside program works. It works in big and small cities, suburban areas, and rural counties. Examples include:
· Bozeman, Montana. A $50,000 LWCF grant was part of a successful project to complete the development of Sundance Springs Park to enable the acquisition of 10.25 acres and to promote access to Bozeman's urban "Main Street to the Mountains" trail.
· Willcox, Arizona. The City of Willcox received LWCF funds to install a new sprinkler system and lights for the Rodeo and lights for the Quail Drive Sports Park.
· Transylvania County, North Carolina. The State of North Carolina received stateside funding to support a partnership to acquire 10,000 acres of lands in and around the Jocasse Gorges to establish Gorges State Park.
· Juneau, Alaska. The City of Juneau Parks and Recreation Department received stateside LWCF funds to help open a new ice skating rink at the Treadwell Arena in 2003.
State and local governments seek federal assistance to defray some of the costs for these types of projects. They ask Congress to provide greater certainty and predictability for planning and funding long-term capital projects and other initiatives, which would be provided by this bill. Land acquisition and facilities development are capital expenditures and state and local officials need greater certainty to budget and plan for these improvements.
As provided for in the bill, the Land and Water Conservation Fund deserves permanent funding, because the LWCF is tied to a dedicated funding source - offshore oil and gas royalties. Fully funding LWCF is consistent with other federal wildlife and conservation programs that enjoy dedicated funding, such as the Dingell-Johnson and Wallop-Breaux programs. In addition, the federal transportation reauthorization bill is funded via its own funding source - the federal gasoline tax. Last year, Congress approved spending for airport improvements which are paid for by airport user fees and other revenue sources. Four years ago, Congress approved mandatory spending for payments to rural counties which rely on timber receipts from federal timber harvests.
S. 2590 does not seek special treatment for the park, wildlife and coastal programs. By providing dedicated LWCF funding to states, Indian tribes and Alaska Native Corporations from 2005-2010, the bill puts stateside LWCF, urban park, wildlife and coastal funding on par with other federal programs which have dedicated funding sources.
With the 50/50 match requirement for stateside LWCF, the Alexander-Landrieu bill will also leverage significant non-federal funding - approximately $2.25 billion over the life of the bill.
Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program
I commend Senators Alexander and Landrieu for including funding for UPARR in the bill. When it established the UPARR program in 1978, Congress authorized the National Park Service (NPS) to provide federal matching grants and technical assistance to help ensure that young people in economically-distressed cities and neighborhoods have access to high quality recreation facilities. In the last twenty-five years, UPARR has provided 1,461 grants to 380 local jurisdictions in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. These grants have rehabilitated existing facilities, promoted innovative programs, and funded planning activities.
Most of the UPARR grants have been used to rehabilitate playgrounds, recreation centers, ball fields, neighborhood parks, swimming pools, picnic areas and basketball and tennis courts. These grants are matched by the local jurisdiction on a 70/30 basis.
With the Congressional appropriations between FY 2000 and FY 2002, the National Park Service has worked in close partnership with our cities - both large and small in many regions of our country to fund on the ground improvements.
I know first hand the benefits that UPARR provides. In Portland, UPARR funding allowed us to convert an abandoned fire station into the Interstate Fire House and Cultural Center and to rehabilitate the University Park Community Center.
Other recent examples include: * Covington, Kentucky. The NPS provided a $120,000 grant to rehabilitate a 6.3 acre park by installing a new play surface, new playground equipment and replace a picnic shelter.
* Kansas City, Missouri. The NPS provided a $500,000 grant to
rehabilitate the pool facility at Swope Park, in an economically-depressed neighborhood.
* Las Vegas, Nevada. The NPS provided $425,000 to rehabilitate basketball courts, a skateboard rink, playground equipment and restrooms.
* Phoenix, Arizona. The NPS provided a $500,000 grant to replace the current recreation building, water play area, playground equipment and softball field lighting.
To build on the past success of the program, our cities need the $125 million provided in the bill.
In my capacity as Chairman of The Conservation Fund, a nationwide non-profit organization, I've learned that our nation's landscape is as diverse and varied as our nation's population. Our landscape encompasses the coasts, the cities, piedmont and foothills, mountain valleys and the backcountry. Our nation's built environment is also diverse and varied, from the downtowns of our large and small cities, to the suburbs, to rural county land, working landscapes and remote communities.
Over the last forty years, this Committee and the Congress have recognized the diverse needs of our lands and our people. Starting forty years ago with the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, Congress passed a series of bills authorizing a suite of federal grant programs to address our most pressing conservation and recreation needs. To build on these legislative accomplishments, we need adequate resources to carry out the programs that Congress has authorized.
We also need the flexibility provided by the federal LWCF program. On the ground, local governments, conservation organizations and their partners are using all available tools to preserve our lands and waters. Full funding of the federal LWCF program is an important tool for land conservation, especially as acquisitions grow more creative and complex.
Successful conservation initiatives often require a mix of federal, state, local or private funding. Federal LWCF is an essential ingredient in for projects that are locally supported and respectful of the needs of landowners.
By fully funding the stateside and federal LWCF, we can ensure that our people can enjoy a nationwide network of local, state and national lands dedicated to recreation and land and water conservation. By approving this bill, Congress can protect, enjoy and pass on America's great natural resources to future generations.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of the bill. I would be pleased to respond to questions.
Provided by Tom St. Hilaire, Executive Director
Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation
1300 19th St., N.W.Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036P - 202-454-3370
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