SCHUMER PUSHES FOR NEW FUNDING FOR FEDERAL PARKS PROGRAM WHICH COULD UNDO CUTS AND PREVENT CLOSURES OF NY STATE PARKS; WILL BE PART OF NEW ENERGY BILL
Schumer Pushes for Full Funding of Land and Water Conservation Fund in New Energy Bill; Was Established 40 Years Ago With Funds from Offshore Drilling New Push Could Help Keep New York State Parks Open and Help Prevent Closures and Cutbacks Due to Budget Cuts Schumer: State Parks Are Important Part of NY Economy, Heritage- Must Be Protected
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the new Senate energy bill could provide the funding necessary to reverse cuts to state parks and reduce the risk that they would have to be closed in the future. It would also allow New York State Parks to make critical upgrades and improvements. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), funded through offshore oil and gas drilling royalties has historically been authorized at $900 million per year to help acquire and develop outdoor recreation facilities, but Congress has only appropriated the full allotment twice in the last 40 years, despite the fact that the Treasury Department collects the full $900 million in royalties. Providing land acquisition and development dollars to the New York State Parks, could free up dollars to keep the parks open.
During a conference call, joined by New York State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash, Schumer said that the new bill, released this week, contains full funding for LWCF, which could provide almost unprecedented resources to the state. The critical step now is passing the bill and ensuring that a significant portion of the funding goes to state, and not just the federal government. That decision will be made by the Administration, and Schumer will fight to make sure that the state gets its fair share.
"These dollars, already being collected by oil and gas drilling companies, have hardly been used for their intended purpose and should be spent on parks and outdoor recreation as Congress intended." said Schumer. "In the last year we have seen park closures and programs New Yorkers have come to expect eliminated because of squeezed state budgets. By providing the state more funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, state parks will have greater flexibility to restore cuts to popular parks and make long overdue improvements that will ensure our state's parks are national treasures for years to come."
For over 40 years, the LWCF has used revenue collected from offshore oil and gas development to purchase lands from willing sellers for the purposes of conservation and to provide grants to states for recreation planning, acquisition of lands and waters, and facility development. It is authorized at a spending level of $900 million per year. However, Congress has fully funded the program only twice since its inception and rarely has the fund come close to matching the full amount authorized. Appropriations over the years have varied wildly and have been a mere fraction of the total amount authorized. The result is a program that moves forward in fits and starts, to the detriment of our parks systems.
All across New York this year, access to state parks was in jeopardy as the State tried to fill its budget gap. Some parks were closed entirely while others underwent severe cuts that limited access and that held up vital improvements.
At its high point in 1979, New York State received roughly $24 million from the LWCF, which was used to provide grants to municipalities to undertake State Park development and land acquisition projects. Since 1965, the LWCF has partially funded 1,250 projects within the state. Virtually every community in New York has acquired and/or developed outdoor recreational facilities with the help of the LWCF.
Over the past year, due to severe state budget shortfalls, New York State Parks has had to close recreational areas and cut back operations throughout the state. Funding from LWCF to New York State Parks for outdoor recreation projects would relieve pressure on its strained budget allowing the state to focus its resources on keeping parks open and operating at their full capacity.
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