Investing in the Land
“Buy land,” Mark Twain advised. “They’re not making any more.” Federal conservation programs are the American public’s way of heeding that advice — and saving the places that make America great.
These programs protect land that offers exceptional public benefits — like parks and public lands, productive farms and ranches, healthy watersheds, and vital wildlife habitat. But, federal conservation programs are regularly underfunded or threatened with severe cuts. And some of our most important programs are at risk of disappearing completely!
The Alliance leads efforts in D.C. to maintain and increase public funding for land conservation. For fiscal year 2015, we succeeded in keeping funding for core programs level — overcoming proposals to cut federal spending on all conservation programs to zero!
The Value of Conservation
A range of federal programs fund purchases and bargain sales of either land or conservation easements. For many landowners, donated easements are simply not a realistic option, so public funding is necessary to protect important resources. In most cases, federal funding for conservation is highly leveraged by contributions from local or state governments, nonprofit fundraising and landowners’ generosity.
Yet, federal spending on land, water, ocean, and wildlife programs makes up just over 1.25% of the federal budget and that spending has grown by only 2% over the last 30 years.
Public funding for land conservation brings an impressive return on investment. Our natural resources provide immense benefits — like clean water supplies, food security, flood control, outdoor recreation, public health, educational opportunities, and so much more. They also help to grow our economy. According to a recent study, outdoor recreation, natural resources conservation and historic preservation in the United States support 8.4 million jobs and over $1 trillion every year in economic activity.
Federal Land Conservation Programs
The Alliance focuses on six major federal programs that support land conservation:
By far the largest source of federal funding for conservation, the 2014 Farm Bill supports conservation easements on farm and ranch land, grasslands, wetlands, and forests. It also funds conservation partnerships and sustainable land management practices. Learn more about the Farm Bill.
Land and Water Conservation Fund
This program creates parks and public lands, using revenues from offshore oil drilling. Its legacy is outstanding: more than three million acres enjoyed by over 500 million people every year. But Congress regularly withholds up to two-thirds of its funding — and the program is in danger of expiring in 2015! Learn more about Land and Water Conservation Fund.
North American Wetlands Conservation Act
This program protects wetlands and other migratory bird habitat through grants that match every federal dollar with $3.20, on average. But its future is precarious unless Congress reauthorizes it! Learn more about the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.
Forest Legacy Program
America is losing over half a million acres of private forest land every year. This program preserves environmentally significant forests by funding conservation easements or land purchases by the U.S. Forest Service and state governments. Learn more about the Forest Legacy Program.
Endangered Species Grants
Over half of threatened or endangered species rely on habitats on private land. These grants help conserve those habitats through fee acquisition and conservation easements. Learn more about endangered species grants.
America’s Great Outdoors
The Alliance and hundreds of land trusts helped shape America’s Great Outdoors, a new agenda for conservation and recreation in America. Learn more about America’s Great Outdoors.