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Although he has repeatedly called for cutting its funding by as much as 97 percent year after year including in his most recent budget proposal, on Tuesday President Trump called on Congress to pass a law to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Congress last year permanently authorized the Fund, which uses oil and gas revenues to fund conservation efforts such as securing land for parks, however, it rarely fully funds the LWCF’s $900 million annual budget but that would happen automatically if Congress were to pass such a law.
Why This Matters: President Trump is no friend of land conservation — it is tragic that he has vastly increased oil and gas drilling on public lands and even in formerly protected areas, but based on this one tweet will now argue that he supports parks. Nothing could be further from the truth. That said, Congress should take this opportunity to get the full $900 million made a permanent appropriation and not subject to annual budget fight s — or better yet, should also fund the entire National Park Maintenance backlog and increase the annual budget of the Fund — that proposal was put forward yesterday by Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). Supporting existing parks and creating new ones have always had bipartisan support, and Democrats have always supported parks and park funding. Now it is time for all the Republicans to step up and show us the money.
House Democrats Pass Park Creation and Funding Legislation
When Republicans controlled Congress from 2010-18, according to the Center for American Progress, the United States lost an estimated 19,000 square miles of natural area to urban sprawl, oil and gas fields, and other human development while Congressional Republican anti-parks caucus blocked nature bills that would have made up for the lost ground on parks. But once the Democrats took over the House, they have passed with bipartisan support numerous bills that would altogether protect more than 5.5 million acres of public lands and waters across the nation—nearly five times as much natural area as Congress protected in the previous eight years. Further, each of the nature protection bills that has passed the House has garnered bipartisan support. And in the Senate last year, Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) were part of a bipartisan effort to fully fund LWCF, but the budget ultimately included only about half the funding for the program.
The U.S. Is Losing Natural Areas To Development — and Fast
According to a Center for American Progress study from last year, between 2001 to 2017, “the United States lost an average of more than a football field’s worth of natural area to development every 30 seconds. This loss is rapidly fragmenting wildlife habitats: During the same time period, the average distance in the contiguous United States from a natural place to the nearest human development shrunk by more than 40 percent. Squeezed by development and facing the mounting strains of climate change, more than 12,000 species of animals and plants in the country need special conservation attention to survive. Globally, more than 1 million wildlife species are at some risk of extinction.” In response to natural habitat losses, scientists recommend that the U.S. (and all other nations) should protect at least 30 percent of all lands and oceans by 2030 (30×30).
The Blue Ridge Parkway — first conceived in 1933 to connect Skyline Drive to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — is a feast for the eyes, designed by landscape architects specifically to showcase a variety of vistas and views. But preserving them requires conserving parcels along the boundaries of the Park, which, as This […]
Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Smoky Mountains National Parks closed on Tuesday due to coronavirus concerns, joining Yosemite National Park, the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island because of concerns of crowding in public spaces leading to spread of the disease.
Why This Matters: As is true with so much of the Trump Administration’s attitude toward containing the spread of the virus, they have left each Park to decide on its own, causing confusion and sending mixed signals to the public and leaving local officials struggling to respond.