After Slashing Its Budget, President Trump Now Wants Congress To Permanently Fund Parks

Land and Water Conservation Fund Facebook Page

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).

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