This week, the House of Representatives will vote on a bill that fails to provide for the responsible protection and management of our Nation's natural heritage and resources or fully honor our obligations and commitments to tribal nations. Instead, the House Republican bill includes shortsighted funding cuts that would undermine fiscal responsibility, national conservation, environmental priorities, and our economic competitiveness.
Specifically, the House Republican bill blocks investments that rein in future costs to taxpayers by facilitating increased energy development; maintaining facilities and infrastructure; and bolstering preparedness and resilience against the effects a changing climate. The bill reduces support for partnerships with States, local governments, and private entities on efforts to restore and conserve natural resources. And the bill makes it harder for States and businesses to plan and execute changes that will decrease carbon pollution.
In addition to its unacceptable funding levels, the House Republican bill also includes numerous highly problematic ideologically-motivated provisions that threaten to undermine the ability of States and communities to tackle climate change, as well as ensure the most basic protections for our air, water, and America's special places and the people and wildlife that rely on them. American families are counting on us to take steps to protect the environment and the health of our children and communities. This bill shirks that responsibility.
The impacts of that shortsighted approach will be felt across the country. For example, almost every State would have at least one important conservation or national parks project obstructed or delayed as funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and national parks gets dramatically cut.
The LWCF has been a crucial tool for 50 years in conserving vital iconic landscapes, from the Great Smoky Mountains to Rocky Mountain National Park. The Fund reinvests revenues from offshore oil and gas development to support LWCF programs that enhance existing parks, conserve treasured landscapes, preserve historic sites like Civil War battlefields, and open land for all sorts of public uses – from hunting, fishing and hiking to establishing parks – while stimulating investment in the protection and maintenance of these resources across the Nation.
Federal land acquisition can also reduce land management costs. In the past five years, over 99 percent of the lands acquired by the Department of the Interior were inholdings within existing conservation units. The acquisition of inholdings can reduce maintenance and manpower costs by reducing boundary conflicts, simplifying resource management activities, and easing access to and through public lands. This focus maximizes management efficiencies for the agencies and, in many cases, reduces costs. Furthermore, the LWCF generates economic activity throughout the nation. In 2012, recreation activities on federally-managed lands and waters contributed an estimated $51 billion and 880,000 jobs to the U.S. economy.
Instead of supporting these successful conservation efforts, Republicans in the House of Representatives are proposing to cut discretionary funding for the LWCF by $152 million, or 38 percent, below the President’s Budget. Efforts in the Everglades to protect, restore, and conserve habitat for critical species would be impaired and delayed, and at Acadia National Park – where almost 1,500 species of trees, shrubs, and other plant life exist – the natural and scenic resources of the park would be left unprotected. In total, the House would fund only 13 of the 86 projects proposed in the President’s Budget. That’s not just bad news for these projects; it’s bad news for the individuals, communities, and businesses that rely on these recreation areas and ecosystems.
The bill also fails to provide adequate funding to prepare for the National Parks Centennial in 2016, which would result in the delay of roughly 70 percent of line-item park construction projects and 36 percent of repair and rehabilitation projects. For example, construction projects at Yosemite National Park, the National Mall and Memorial Parks, and Grand Teton National Park would be delayed.
For more information about the specific impacts of the House Republican bill on LWCF acquisition projects and National Park Service construction and repair and rehabilitation projects in your state, click here. For information about the impacts of the very similar Senate Republican bill, click here. These specific examples from the House and Senate Republican bill are archetypical of a Budget approach that fails the basic test: it’s an approach that doesn’t move our economy forward and one that doesn’t live up to our values and responsibility to the next generation.
Shaun Donovan is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.