President Clinton, in the FY 2000 budget he will submit to Congress, is proposing a $1 billion Lands Legacy initiative to expand federal protection of critical lands across America, help states and communities preserve local green spaces, and strengthen protections for our oceans and coasts.
This landmark initiative -- a 125 percent increase over FY 1999 funding -- represents the largest one- year investment ever in the preservation of America's lands legacy. It includes $900 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), marking the first time any Administration has requested full funding from LWCF, which draws revenues from federal offshore oil sales. To sustain these efforts in the new century, the President commits to work with Congress to create a permanent funding stream beginning in FY 2001.
The Lands Legacy initiative continues the Clinton-Gore Administration's vigorous efforts to save America's natural treasures. And, by providing significant new resources to states and local communities, it forges a new conservation vision for the 21st century -- one that recognizes the importance of preserving irreplaceable pieces of our natural legacy within easy reach of every citizen.
Lands Legacy will be administered by the Department of the Interior (DOI), $579 million; the Department of Agriculture (USDA), $268 million; and the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), $183 million. It will be coordinated with the $1 billion Livability Agenda announced by Vice President Gore of January 11 through interagency cooperation and consultation.
In addition, the President is calling on Congress to extend permanent wilderness protection to more than 5 million acres in 17 national parks and monuments, including Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Glacier, Great Smoky Mountains and Cumberland Gap.
Saving America's Natural Treasures
Federal Acquisitions - The initiative increases federal land acquisition funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 26 percent to a total of $413 million ($295 million for DOI, and $118 million for USDA). In recent years, the Administration has dedicated LWCF funds to protecting Yellowstone National Park from mining, saving ancient redwoods in California's Headwaters Forest, preserving Civil War battlefields, completing the Maine-to-Georgia Appalachian Trail, and acquiring more than 100 other natural and historic sites across the country. Priorities for FY 2000 include acquisition of over 450,000 acres in California's Mojave Desert, 100,000 acres for addition to New England wildlife refuges and national forests, and lands critical to the ongoing restoration of Florida's Everglades.
Protecting Our Parks - The President also is calling on Congress to grant permanent wilderness protection to over 5 million acres within Arches, Big Bend, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Crater Lake, Glacier, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone and Zion National Parks; Cedar Breaks, Colorado and Dinosaur National Monuments; Assateague Island National Seashore/Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge; and Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. Granting these areas the highest level of federal protection available would, in the words of the Wilderness Act of 1964, recognize them as areas where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.
Helping States and Communities Preserve Green Spaces
Land Acquisition Grants - Lands Legacy includes $150 million through LWCF for matching grants to state, local and tribal governments, and nonprofit land trusts, for acquisition of land and easements for urban parks, greenways, outdoor recreations, wildlife habitat, and coastal wetlands. The DOI program retools the LWCF state grants program for smart growth and open space preservation. Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis, with priority going to projects consistent with statewide smart growth plans.
Open Space Planning Grants - The initiative proposes a new $50 million program of matching grants to states to develop open space preservation and smart growth strategies. States would use a variety of data and tools to identify priority areas for urban development, farmland, and conservation. The program, administered by DOI, would award grants competitively, with priority going to proposals that tie state plans to regional strategies for managing the economy, job growth, and infrastructure development.
Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund - The initiative proposes $80 million -- a $66 million increase -- for state and local 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. The program is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Forest Legacy Program - To protect private forest land that provides critical wildlife habitat and is threatened by development, the initiative proposes $50 million -- an increase of more than six-fold -- for matching grants to states for the purchase of permanent conservation easements. Use of protected lands for forestry and compatible activities is permitted. The program is administered by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the proposed funding would protect roughly 135,000 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 USFS, 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.
Farmland Protection Program - To protect farmland and sustain rural economies, Lands Legacy would provide $50 million in matching grants to states, communities, tribes and land trusts for the purchase of permanent conservation easements on farmland threatened by development. The program, administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) was created by the 1996 Farm Bill. Through mid-1998, $35 million in federal funding had leveraged an estimated $230 million in easements, protecting about 127,000 acres.
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, and nonprofit corporations), which in turn would loan funds to rural businesses, land trusts and other nonprofit organizations. Proposed funding of $10 million would support $50 million in loans. Priorities are supporting smart growth strategies and helping owners of underproducing forest land at risk of sale improve forest productivity.
Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery - The initiative proposes $4 million in matching grants and technical assistance for the restoration of parks in economically distressed urban communities. The program, administered by the National Park Service, awarded over 1200 grants from 1978 to 1995 but has remained unfunded since 1995.
Protecting Our Oceans and Coasts
National Marine Sanctuaries - Lands Legacy proposes $29 million -- a 107 percent increase -- to strengthen protections at 12 marine sanctuaries off California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Texas, Washington, and American Samoa, and to plan for future marine sanctuaries. The funding will allow NOAA to accelerate the adoption and implementation of management plans for existing sanctuaries and expand outreach activities with coastal communities.
Coastal Zone Management Act Program - To help promote smart growth strategies along America's coasts, the initiative proposes $90 million, a 55 percent increase, to help states implement Critical Coastal Area Management and Restoration Plans. The matching grants can be used to acquire lands or to undertake other efforts to protect wildlife habitat, protect life and property from coastal hazards, and revitalize ports and urban waterfronts.
National Estuarine Research Reserves System - The initiative proposes $19 million, a 375 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 reserves in 19 states and territories manage about 500,000 acres. The proposed funding would double the protected acreage.
Coral Reef Restoration - Lands Legacy proposes $10.3 million -- a $10 million increase -- to protect fragile coral reefs from pollution and other human impacts. NOAA, in conjunction with DOI, would restore injured reefs in Puerto Rico, Florida, Hawaii and U.S. territories, and develop a coral nursery to grow donor material for restoration projects.
Coastal Dredge Area Restoration - The initiative proposes $10 million for NOAA to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use material dredged from ports and shipping channels to restore coastal habitats. Dredging is critical to keep shipping lanes open and deepen channels to accommodate larger ships. Reusing dredge spoils benefits the environment and reduces disposal costs.
Fisheries Habitat Restoration - To restore declining fisheries, the initiative proposes $25 million for NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service to acquire and protect critical habitat. Efforts would focus on Northeast and Middle Atlantic coast, the Gulf Coast, the West Coast, Alaska, and other regions that participate in the National Estuary Program or have multiple threatened or endangered species.