Wilderness Society Commends President’s Budget for Greater Focus on Conserving Natural Resources

Feb 2, 2015
Conservation focus recognizes Americans’ love of their shared public lands.

The Wilderness Society applauds President Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget for responsibly addressing the damaging sequester and restoring essential funding to conservation, clean energy and outdoor recreation programs that support our nation’s treasured public lands and address the harmful effects of climate change in the United States.

The President's budget includes:

• Full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a wildly popular 50-year-old conservation program that has supported conservation of our lands and waters, from National Parks to community ball fields;

• A proposal similar to currently introduced bipartisan legislation that would fund suppression of the most severe wildfires the same way we fund all other natural disaster responses;

• Increased funding for national monuments to improve infrastructure, including in the recently designated San Gabriel Mountains National Monument in Southern California; and

• Greater funding, in the face of climate change, for building resilience locally and for adaptive management across public lands managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.

“Americans overwhelmingly recognize the value of our public lands such as national parks, forests and wilderness areas. These lands are treasured for recreation, wildlife habitat, hunting and fishing, clean drinking water and economic value,” said Cameron Witten, government relations associate for The Wilderness Society. “Outdoor recreation pumps $646 billion into the U.S. economy annually and supports more than six million jobs.”

The President’s budget provides a fiscally responsible path toward restoring funding for widely popular conservation programs by undoing the draconian spending cuts inflicted under sequestration.

The Wilderness Society strongly supports several items in the President’s budget that restore much needed funding for conservation programs:

The Land and Water Conservation Fund: The President’s budget takes the important steps of reauthorizing this wildly popular 50-year-old conservation program and restoring full and dedicated funding. Signed into law in 1964, the LWCF uses revenues from the depletion of one natural resource — offshore oil and gas — to support the conservation of another — our land and water. But over the course of its lifetime, more than $19 billion has been diverted from its trust fund by Congress, leaving many projects unfinished and pieces of land unprotected. Full and dedicated funding for the LWCF makes good on a 50-year-old conservation promise.

A Responsible Approach to Fighting Wildfires: Wildfire management costs have increased from 13 percent of the Forest Service budget in 1991 to almost 50 percent today. We support the President’s sustainable approach of paying to fight wildfires the same way we pay for all other natural disasters, without robbing other critical initiatives.

Renewable Energy: In order to move toward a new energy future, more large-scale renewable energy is needed. We are pleased to see the President’s budget dedicate funding for smart planning in order to make sure that renewable energy is developed in the right places that do not impact sensitive wild lands and wildlife habitat. If the nation is truly committed to tackling climate change, then a focus on smart renewable energy siting is necessary.

Oil and Gas Reforms: The Obama administration, through the Bureau of Land Management, has taken on many reforms to ensure that oil and gas development is done on a landscape level with proper planning. It is great to see the FY2016 budget include funding for those reforms and more implementation to ensure that oil and gas development is better balanced with protection of wild lands. The administration is also making a commitment to ensure that oil and gas development is done safely and responsibly through increased funding to inspection and enforcement of oil and gas wells on federal lands. The president’s budget also proposes an increase in royalty rates for oil and gas development. This will ensure that tax payers get a fair return for use of our lands by fully and fairly valuing the resources contained beneath them.

Recreation: With the approach of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, now is a great time to get more people out on America’s spectacular public lands. The administration’s budget includes a significant commitment to address the maintenance backlog in America’s National Parks. The Wilderness Society supports this commitment to connecting people with their natural heritage and the outstanding recreation opportunities these lands provide.

Last week, The Wilderness Society along with other national groups across the U.S., urged the President and Congress to end years of budget cuts to conservation and natural resource programs in the 2015 “Green Investments” report. LINK: www.wilderness.org/resource/green-investments-2015

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The Wilderness Society is the leading wild public lands conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 500,000 members and supporters, TWS has led the effort to permanently protect 110 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org.

Contacts: Cameron Witten, Government Relations Associate: (202) 429-8458, cameron_witten@tws.org;

Alan Rowsome, Senior Government Relations Director for Lands: (202) 429-2643, alan_rowsome@tws.org