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Reinvigorate the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Land Trust Alliance Recommendations to President-Elect Barack Obama December 8, 2008

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has languished at very low funding levels over the past decade.  It is important to recognize that this is not because of a lack of popular support for its purpose.  Polling, and even more significantly, actual voting reveals deep and strong popular support for investing in land conservation.

In 2008, despite a deep economic freeze, voters approved more than $8.4 billion in funding for land conservation in state and local referenda.  In fact, voters have approved an average of nearly $4 billion a year for these purposes over the past decade, with many of those votes explicitly raising voters’ taxes.

Many of our colleagues have thought long and hard about how one might reinvent, re-purpose, or reformulate the Land and Water Conservation Fund to provide at least $900 million a year for land conservation.  There are many ways this could be done.  The basic idea, however, remains brilliant and logical: to take a relatively small share of the funds generated from a nonrenewable natural resource, and invest it in a renewable natural resource base for the benefit of the public. 

Regardless of formulation, we should not underestimate the importance of Administration leadership on this issue.  That leadership is an invaluable ingredient without which no reformulation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund can succeed.

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