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Senate Vote Advances Major Conservation Priorities
Significant Progress for the RESTORE Act and Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
The U.S. Senate voted today (76-22) to pass two significant measures that will help restore the the Gulf Coast as well as conserve working lands, important fish and wildlife habitat, and recreation areas across America. The Senate voted on an amendment (#1822) to the Surface Transportation Act which combined dedicated funding for the RESTORE Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
The Nature Conservancy applauds Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Scott Brown (R-MA) for helping to bring this amendment to the full Senate.
“Today, Senators took advantage of an extraordinary and rare opportunity to conserve America’s vital lands and waters, without spending any taxpayer dollars,” said Mark Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “Passage of the joint RESTORE/LWCF amendment through strongly bi-partisan action in the Senate is a tremendous step forward. These programs would allow for restoration of the beautiful and economically important natural systems of the Gulf Coast and for the conservation of working lands, important fish and wildlife habitat, and recreation areas across America.”
The RESTORE Act directs 80 percent of the Clean Water Act civil penalties that may be levied on responsible parties in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill back to the region for long term restoration and economic development. These civil penalties will be a one-time payment by responsible parties and are not paid for by taxpayers.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has provided fee and easement acquisition within federal conservation boundaries (such as parks and refuges) and private forests and ranches since 1965, but in most years the authorized funding has actually been diverted for other purposes, leaving the program short-funded. This amendment provides significant short term funding and reauthorizes the program through 2022. The LWCF is also not paid for by taxpayers, as it is funded by oil and gas lease revenues in the Gulf of Mexico. The amendment also provides 1.5 percent of the LWCF’s revenue for further investments in ensuring recreational access to existing public lands – making public lands public – for hunters, anglers and other outdoor recreationists.
“The RESTORE Act and legislation providing dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) are each significant conservation measures in their own right,” concluded Tercek. “The RESTORE Act portion of this amendment would advance the long-overdue restoration of the Gulf of Mexico by rightfully directing fines that may result from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to restoration of the Gulf—a natural system of global importance. The Land and Water Conservation Fund provision is an important step forward in living up to the promise made to the American people when the LWCF was created more than forty years ago—that a portion of the proceeds from the use of the nation’s natural resources should be dedicated to lasting investments in conservation and recreation all across the country. We urge the full Congress to send these positive measures to the President as soon as possible.”