Senator Lincoln,

Arkansas Recreation and Parks Association applauds the legislative efforts to invests in the protection of our nation’s natural resources by providing full and dedicated funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) through the Consolidated Land Energy and Aquatic Resources Act (HR 3534)(CLEAR). The CLEAR Act, as originally introduced last October, provided equal funding for the State Assistance and the Federal programs within the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). We are extremely disappointed that the equal funding provision has been removed from the amended version of the bill. It is imperative that a full and dedicated funding measure for the LWCF specify equal funding for the two programs, and we ask you to champion efforts to have this provision reinserted in the bill.

The LWCF is funded by drilling leases in the Outer Continental Shelf and is based on the premise that the extraction of one natural resource should provide funding for protecting other natural resources in perpetuity. While revenues from OCS leases has continued to rise, funding for conservation, especially at the state and local level, has been low and unpredictable. In Fiscal Year 09 the LWCF State Assistance program received only $19 million, yet it was able to permanently protect more than 26,000 acres at the state and local levels in 2009.

When originally authorized in 1965, the LWCF specified that 60% of funding would go to the State Assistance program. Over the years language specifying the State Assistance share has been removed. However, language has remained specifying the Federal program shall receive a minimum of 40% of funds provided. As a result the Federal program has received a substantially larger percentage of appropriated funds and annual funding for the Stateside program has been minimal and at times zero. LWCF spending from 1965-2009 totaled approximately $15 billion, but of that amount only $3.9 billion was provided to the State Assistance program.

The LWCF Stateside program leverages state and local funds and fosters partnerships between all levels of government. The program also serves as one of the most efficient uses of federal resources as states and local communities often surpass the 50/50 matching funds requirement.

States and local communities provide the best access to affordable, close-to-home, outdoor recreation opportunities. Conservation efforts and efforts to get Americans physically active will need to take place at the local level and will require more dedicated resources to the LWCF State Assistance program as not every community is located in close proximity to a National Park.

LWCF is an essential component to combating many critical issues impacting our nation. During these difficult economic times, now more than ever, states and local communities need support to protect our most precious natural resources, and to help foster a new generation of youth who will preserve and protect America’s landscape. Additionally, these projects lead to economic growth through job creation, increased property values, and tourism. And they help fight the obesity epidemic, as well as improve overall public health, by giving people of all ages the access needed to recreational opportunities so they may lead healthier, more active lifestyles.

I ask that you stand up for the neighborhoods and communities in our State by supporting full and dedicated funding of LWCF, and by championing the call for equal funding for the State and Federal programs within LWCF.

Kitty Lane, Executive Director
Arkansas Recreation and Parks Association

Darren Austin
Sherwood Parks and Recreation

Rick McWhorter
Springdale Parks and Recreation

Joseph Gaa
Sebastian County Parks

Pat Austin
Paragould Parks and Recreation

David Wright
Fayetteville Parks and Recreation

Kristen Griggs
Jacksonville Parks and Recreation

Dana Rozenski
Jacksonville Parks and Recreation

Bill Craig
Little Rock Parks and Recreation

John Crow
North Little Rock Parks and Recreation

Tom Cogan
Clarksville Parks and Recreation

Truman Tolefree
Little Rock Parks and Recreation