Permanent Funding for Land and Water Conservation Close, Ocean Monument Order Draws Suit

The Land and Water Conservation Fund’s Accomplishments to Date     Image: doi.gov

The Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the Great American Outdoors Act and put $900m each year in perpetuity into the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which can be used to create, further protect, and expand federal, state, and local parks. The House is expected to pass the law in the coming days and President Trump now says he will sign it.  The Act also authorizes $6.5B to pay for long-overdue maintenance to improve recreation on lands managed by numerous agencies in the federal government.  In order to preserve the first fully protected area in the Atlantic Ocean, environmental groups yesterday challenged President Trump’s order opening up the NE Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument to commercial fishing.

Why This Matters:  The public overwhelmingly supports conserving our most precious areas of historic importance and natural beauty. This is a historic investment in our environment and the local economies that thrive around parks.  But it took years for Congress to finally take oil and gas leasing revenues and shift them directly to conservation, without the need for any other Congressional action.  All we can say is it’s about time.  Parks in the ocean — even far offshore — deserve the same protections – otherwise, they will soon be gone too.

Why Was There Any Opposition to the Great America Outdoors Act?

A few Republicans (25 to be precise) argued that it was too expensive to reduce the maintenance backlog in parks and recreation areas, and they objected to an off-budget carve-out from oil and gas revenues for the LWCF.  “It’s expensive, shortsighted and it’s wrong,” said Sen. Mike Lee, The Hill reported.  The current backlog of maintenance projects is twice as large as the amount Congress authorized to make the fixes — and that does not mean a single dollar will be appropriated for them.  But the $900 each year for the Fund is a lock now — and will happen automatically.  The laws’s passage reportedly will boost the fortunes of two Republican Senators in tough re-election battles,  Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Steve Daines (Mont.).  Outdoor businesses applauded the action. Brady Robinson of The Conservation Alliance, an alliance of outdoor and associated businesses said in a statement, All of our business members – from big outdoors companies to craft breweries to local retailers – have been working to support full funding for LWCF for a long time, and this would be an enormous victory. Now more than ever we need Congress to invest in communities, small businesses and jobs by swiftly passing the Great American Outdoors Act.”  Green Latinos’ Jessica Loya said of the bill’s passage, “For Latinx communities, parks and natural areas serve as vital spaces to connect to our cultures, the land, as well as spiritual and community practices alike. Our fight for access does not end here – we will continue to advocate for the millions of Latinxs who do not live within walking distance of a public outdoor space or park.”

NE Canyons and Seamounts Monument Defense

Environmental groups vowed a legal battle when the President rolled back the fundamental monument protections.  One of the main proponents of the monument, the Conservation Law Foundation’s President Brad Campbell said, “Trump has once again eliminated critical natural resource protections on a whim and with no legal authority.  This lawless act upends over a century of practice by presidents of both parties and puts all national monuments on the block for the highest political bidder.  CLF is going to court to protect this natural treasure, one that provides resilience, refuge, and hope in one of the fastest-warming bodies of water in the world.”  The groups bringing the suit, In the lawsuit, CLF, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Natural Resources Defense Council argued, according to The Boston Globe, that allowing commercial fishing in the protected waters is “incompatible with the proper care and management” of the marine monument.

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