Witnesses Critique Federal Land Acquisition through Land and Water Conservation Fund, Praise States’ Recreational Management
April 15, 2015
Today, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held an oversight hearing
titled, “Federal Land Acquisition and its Impacts on Communities and the Environment.” Witness testimony focused on the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (LWCF) of 1965, which expires on September 30, 2015.
Under the LWCF, federal land acquisition historically has received the vast majority of the program’s funding. The stateside program, despite far greater returns in fulfilling the intent of the 1965 law, which was to ensure greater access to outdoor recreation for the American public, only comprises a quarter of total funding.
"Our federal lands already face billions of dollars in critical deferred maintenance projects. The National Park Service alone, for example, faces a backlog of $11.5 billion in deferred maintenance projects. These unfunded projects include deteriorating facilities, leaky waste water systems, and deficient roads, bridges, and trails. With the total federal estate now at more than 635 million acres, and the extent of the unmet management needs on those lands, spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year through the LWCF to acquire new lands is simply irresponsible,” said Shawn Regan, Research Fellow, Property and Environment Research Center. “Instead, Congress should prioritize the maintenance and care of the land and facilities that federal agencies already own over further land acquisitions. The reauthorization of the LWCF presents an opportunity for Congress to address many of the critical unfunded needs on existing federal lands and prevent further increases in the deferred maintenance backlog on federal lands."
"For the land acquired by BLM, the agency faces management mandates that work against its multiple-use management mission and basic Congressional direction. In practice, rather than multiple-use, it translates to non-use,” said Robert Lovingood, Supervisor, First District, San Bernardino County. “Federal acquisition of more lands results in further unfunded mandates that hinder multiple-use access on thousands of square miles of the public’s land. While the federal government is responsible for the Mojave National Park, the federal government didn’t take responsibility for maintaining public roads within those lands. Many of those roads are so deteriorated that they are nearly impassable. Our ultimate goal is to strike a balance between economic growth and protection of our natural resources. Endless expansion of the federal estate does not foster that goal."
"The LWCF Act was designed to create close to home recreation opportunities and originally 60% of the funds in this program were specifically set aside for state and local projects. The remaining 40% was for federal agency land acquisition. Over the years, federal advocates have lobbied to change the program so there is no longer any state and local guarantee of funding. Since that time federal programs have taken over the vast majority of the funding,” said Domenic Bravo, CPM Administrator, Wyoming Division of State Parks. “Realigning spending with the original intent of the legislation would mean millions more spent close to home on priority projects determined by state actors who know best what local constituents want and need in terms of outdoor recreation. We all recognize the current limitations on the Federal budget. But every member of Congress can agree that the dollars invested through the LWCF State Assistance Program for local projects like parks, ball fields, pools, and playgrounds which preserve those spaces in perpetuity are very worthy investments in the future health and well-being of America."
Additional hearing details can be found here