The Open Space Institute is pleased to report that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 3534, the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act, which includes full funding for the critically important Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million. The Senate is expected to vote on a companion bill after its August recess.
In light of this huge step forward, OSI salutes the many conservation partners who have been working alongside us and our Washington, DC affiliate, the Outdoors America Campaign (see Fall 2009 OSI newsletter), to urge Congress to keep its promise to the American people by fully funding the LWCF.
In addition to its conservation funding component, the just-passed bill includes significant and wide-ranging reforms to ensure that oil and gas development on federal lands and waters proceeds efficiently while protecting human safety and the environment. It includes many provisions to facilitate the cleanup and restoration of the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the Deepwater oil disaster.
The LWCF is the federal government’s primary tool for protecting America’s vast recreational and scenic open spaces. It was created 45 years ago, and through a 1977 Congressional directive, was set at a funding level of $900 million each year.
Since then, the LWCF, however, has never been adjusted for inflation; in reality, its land acquisition funds have nearly every year been “borrowed” for other purposes. LWCF funding has hovered around the $300-$400 million mark for many years, very rarely reaching its target of $900 million.
OSI thanks Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, for introducing the CLEAR Act, and those members of Congress who recognized the importance of responsibly restoring the Gulf of Mexico and creating conservation safeguards to protect the special places that make America unique.
We are hopeful that this marks the real beginning of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative that President Obama spoke about in Washington in April. If you’re so inclined, please contact your Senator and let him or her know you support the companion bill—the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act and a fully funded Land and Water Conservation Fund. The time is now for the federal government to make a statement with its support of conservation.