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LWCF and Forest Legacy

Thank Signers of LWCF Letters

Reps.  Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) recently led a letter signed by a record 191 of their colleagues supporting strong funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Sens. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Richard Burr (R-NC) were joined by 46 Senators on a similar letter for LWCF.

If your Rep. or senator signed-on to either of these letters please call to say thank you! Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Fifty years ago this month, President John F. Kennedy proposed the Land and Water Conservation Fund to Congress legislation to Congress. LWCF has proven to be one of the most important tools we have to protect federal parks, refuges and forests, and to acquire state and local parks and wildlife areas, taking a portion of the revenues from offshore oil and gas leasing and reinvesting them in onshore conservation.  It has been a major source of funding for federal and state acquisitions of land and easements--often purchasing land acquired by land trusts. See our LWCF transition recommendation and a factsheet from the LWCF Coalition.

Though LWCF receives $900 million a year from energy royalties, Congressional appropriators have consistently withheld much of that funding, shortchanging the program by some $17 billion over the past 46 years!  Fortunately, funding grew substantially in the first two years under President Obama -- reaching a peak of $432 million in Fiscal Year 2010. Funding was cut to $301 million in the Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution, but our coalition efforts managed a modest improvement to $323 million in Fiscal year 2012, after several successful amendments increased the initial house proposal by 50%. See lists of specific projects funded:

The appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2014 started out with great news -- President Obama sought $600 million in his budget request, on the way to full, mandatory funding by FY 2015. Thanks to coordinated action by the Alliance, local land trusts and other partners, a record 158 Representatives and 48 Senators signed letters in support of robust funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Forest Legacy in fiscal year 2014.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is set to expire in 2015 and coming budget deadlines make it even more likely that Congress will cut LWCF. To reauthorize and fully dedicate LWCF funding, Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced S. 338. Please urge your Senators to sign-on as co-sponsors, and be sure to thank them if they co-sponsored similar legislation last year. Please visit the LWCF Coalition website for more information.

The Alliance has two goals regarding dedicated funding for LWCF: to see the money going into the fund actually dedicated to conservation, and to allow the fund to be used to support conservation by land trusts. Working through land trusts could allow LWCF to leverage landowner donations and other funding sources to achieve far more conservation.  We believe the America's Great Outdoors Initiative may be the best forum for promoting the idea of allowing enough flexibility in the LWCF so that, like the Great Outdoors Colorado program created when Ken Salazar was Secretary of Natural Resources of that state, it can be used to help land trusts with purchases of land and easements. Learn more about the America's Great Outdoors initiative.

For the latest news on federal appropriations and dedicated funding legislation, please join our Conservation Funding Advocates team.

Forest Legacy Program

The Forest Legacy program is a voluntary program of the USDA Forest Service providing grants to states for the purchase of conservation easements and fee acquisition of environmentally-sensitive or threatened forest lands. The United States loses more than half a million acres of privately-owned timberland to development each year, resulting in a loss of livelihood for some, a loss of places to explore nature for many, a loss of environmental quality for us all.  The Forest Legacy Program provides an alternative to selling timberland for development: assistance in private, voluntary conservation. 2,236,271 acres have been protected as of January 2012. View a list of projects by fiscal year.

The Forest Legacy Program provides grants to enrolled states to purchase conservation easements or fee acquisition on environmentally important forest lands that are threatened with conversion to non-forest uses. Land trusts can provide invaluable assistance with their experience bringing landowners and projects to the table, negotiating and monitoring easements, and can participate in many other ways.

In Fiscal Year 2010, Forest Legacy funding grew by 60% to $79.5 million. The Fiscal Year 2011 Continuing Resolution then cut funding to $53 million, a number which held steady in the Fiscal Year 2012 bill. Due to sequestration, only $50.6 million was enacted for Fiscal Year 2013.

See a chart of recent LWCF and Forest Legacy funding levels.

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Advocates Alerts

February 12: The House successfully voted 279-137, demonstrating a supermajority (67%) of support, on H.R. 644, a package of charitable incentives including the conservation tax incentive.Now we need your help in the Senate to secure co-sponsors! Sens. Heller and Stabenow have requested land trusts’ assistance in asking senators to cosponsor S. 330, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act. Learn more »

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