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Over the past seven years, President Clinton and Vice President Gore have secured stronger protection for tens of millions of acres of precious land across America from the Florida Everglades to Yellowstone to the California redwoods. Last year, they secured $652 million, a 42 percent increase, for a new Lands Legacy initiative supporting federal, state, and local efforts to protect America's land and coastal resources.
Building on these successes, the President's new budget proposes a record $1.4 billion for Lands Legacy in FY 2001 a 93 percent increase and the largest one-year investment ever requested for conserving America's lands. Also, the President proposes a new budget category to ensure permanent funding at this level in future years. More than half the funding would be dedicated to state and local conservation efforts. While specific appropriations within the $1.4 billion cap would be decided each year, funds could not be spent on purposes other than Lands Legacy. If funds were not appropriated in any given year, the cap would rise by a corresponding amount the following year. This would create a lasting endowment future generations can draw on to protect precious land and coastal resources.
Proposed FY 2001 Lands Legacy priorities include:
The FY 2001 funding would be administered by the Department of the Interior (DOI), $735 million; the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), $429 million; and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), $236 million. In addition to discretionary funding of $1.4 billion, Lands Legacy includes $65 million in mandatory funding for USDA's Farmland Protection Program, for a total of $1.465 billion in FY 2001.
I Lands Legacy includes $150 million for matching grants to states for the acquisition of land and easements for parks, greenways, outdoor recreations, wildlife habitat, and coastal wetlands. The DOI program focuses the state grants program on smart growth' and open space preservation, with not more than 50 percent of the funds allocated to states for development projects. In addition, one-half of the grant funding will be awarded based on secretarially developed criteria, with priority going to open space protection and projects that are consistent with statewide smart growth plans.
State Planning Partnerships - The initiative proposes a new $50 million program of grants, contracts, and technical assistance to state and local governments to develop smart growth plans for open space preservation and strategies to manage urban growth. The program, administered through Interior's U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), will use USGS expertise in data collection, management and analysis to assist state and local entities in managing local resources, planning for urban growth, and identifying sensitive land for acquisition and protection according to locally determined priorities. Approximately half of the total funds would be awarded as competitive grants and matched 50 percent by the recipient.
Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund - The initiative proposes $65 million -- a $42 million increase -- for state and local government land acquisition to protect threatened and endangered species. By supporting Habitat Conservation Plans and other flexible tools under the Endangered Species Act, the Fund promotes collaborative strategies that sustain both wildlife and economic development. Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) administers the program.
State Non-Game Wildlife Grants - A new $100 million grant program is proposed to assist states in protecting non-game wildlife populations from decline by acquiring, protecting, and enhancing non-game wildlife and their habitat. The grants would strengthen state efforts to plan, inventory, monitor, and research non-game species as well as support habitat restoration, conservation education, and non-game dependent recreation projects. Interior's FWS will administer the program.
North American Wetlands Conservation Fund - The initiative includes $30 million a $15 million increase to the fully authorized level for grants to assist federal, state, local, and tribal governments, the private sector, land trusts, and the public acquire, protect, restore, or enhance wetlands, and restore waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife. All Federal funds must be matched by the grant recipients. Interior's FWS will administer the program.
Forest Legacy Program - To protect private forest land that provides critical wildlife habitat and is threatened by development, the initiative proposes $60 million -- an increase of 100 percent -- for matching grants to states for the purchase of permanent conservation easements. Use of protected lands for forestry and compatible activities is permitted. USDA's Forest Service administers the program, and the proposed funding would protect about 150,000 acres.
Urban and Community Forestry - The initiative proposes $40 million -- a 29 percent increase -- for matching grants to states and communities to establish, maintain, and expand urban and community forests and related green spaces. The program, administered by the Forest Service, operates in partnership with 8,000 volunteer organizations in more than 10,000 communities. The proposed funding would support 75,000 projects in more than 10,000 communities.
Smart Growth Partnership - Lands Legacy proposes a new revolving loan program to support acquisition of land and easements in rural areas. The Partnership, administered by USDA, would make loans to intermediate borrowers (state, local and tribal governments ), which in turn would lend funds to rural businesses, land trusts and other nonprofit organizations. Proposed funding of $6 million would support about $30 million in loans. Priorities are supporting smart growth strategies and helping owners of under-producing forest land at risk of sale improve forest productivity.
Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery - The initiative proposes $20 million in matching grants and technical assistance a 10-fold increase -- for the restoration of parks in economically distressed urban communities. The National Park Service (DOI) program awarded over 1,200 grants from 1978 to 1995. Funding of $2 million is provided in FY 2000, the first appropriation since 1995.
The initiative increases Federal land acquisition funding by 7 percent to a total of $450 million ($320 million for DOI, and $130 million for USDA). In recent years, the Administration has used this funding to protect Yellowstone National Park from mining, save ancient redwoods in California's Headwaters Forest, preserve Civil War battlefields, complete the Maine-to-Georgia Appalachian Trail, protect the Baca Ranch in New Mexico, and preserve hundreds of other natural and historic sites across the country.
Priorities for FY 2001 include:
Coastal Impact Assistance A new $100 million impact assistance program, to be administered by NOAA, is proposed to provide those coastal states involved in offshore oil and gas production with additional resources needed to protect and sustainably use ocean and coastal resources. Offshore oil and gas development places a variety of additional social, economic and environmental demands on ports, communities, and natural resources of affected coastal states. The funds would provide grants to coastal states and territories to implement activities consistent with Coastal Zone Management Plans and that increase protection and sustainable management of coastal resources such as habitat protection, community revitalization, improved coastal access, and public education on coastal issues.
Coastal Zone Management Act Program - To help promote smart growth strategies along America's coasts, the initiative proposes $159 million, a 269-percent increase, to help coastal states implement community-based projects for environmentally sound economic development and mitigate urban sprawl. Competitive grants can be used by coastal communities to acquire lands, protect wildlife habitat, protect life and property from coastal hazards, revitalize ports and urban waterfronts, and reduce polluted runoff.
National Marine Sanctuaries - Lands Legacy proposes $35 million -- a 38 percent increase -- to strengthen protections at the 12 Federal marine sanctuaries off California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, Washington, and American Samoa, and plan for future marine sanctuaries. The funding will allow NOAA to accelerate the adoption and implementation of management plans for existing Federal sanctuaries and expand outreach activities with coastal communities.
National Estuarine Research Reserves System - The initiative proposes $20 million -- a 60-percent increase -- to expand a network of critical estuaries representing all the biological regions along America's coasts. NOAA provides guidance and matching funds to states to acquire land, protect resources, and conduct research and education. Twenty-two non-Federal reserves in 19 states and territories manage about 500,000 acres. The proposed funding would help support additional sites doubling the protected acreage.
Coral Reef Restoration - Lands Legacy proposes $15 million -- a $9 million increase -- to protect fragile coral reefs from pollution and other human impacts. NOAA, in conjunction with states, territories, the Interior Department, and other Federal agencies, would restore injured reefs in Puerto Rico, Florida, Hawaii, and U.S. territories; and develop a coral nursery to grow donor material and other restoration techniques.
Farmland Protection Program (FPP) - In addition to the $1.4 billion in dedicated discretionary funding, $65 million in mandatory funding is proposed for the FPP to provide matching grants to state, local, and tribal governments to leverage their farmland preservation efforts. This funding, within the Administration's Farm Conservation Initiative, would permanently protect more than 130,000 acres from development, helping to preserve productive soils, open space, and rural economies. Mandatory funding for the FPP was first enacted as part of the 1996 Farm bill; however, those funds have been exhausted. Last year, as part of Lands Legacy, the Administration requested $50 million in discretionary funds for the FPP, but Congress appropriated none. This year, the Administration proposes mandatory funds for the FPP, as was originally provided under the Farm bill.
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