Sierra Club calls Clinton's investment in America's heritage a bold step forward

Much needed increase in land and water conservation fund will help protect America's special places.

provided by the Sierra Club


he Sierra Club today applauded President Clinton's "Land Legacy" proposal to invest a billion dollars into the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to protect our children's heritage -- America's special wild places -- from development, oil and gas drilling, logging and mining.

"This is a bold step forward for our public lands," declared Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope. "The Clinton Administration is finally delivering on a promise Congress made more than 30 years ago when it established this fund to protect our wild places, recreation areas and wildlife habitat. Buying this land is the best way to protect it and preserve it for our children to enjoy."

The Clinton Administration's proposal will increase protection of America's wild places by fully funding the LWCF. This investment will help to protect America's favorite special places, from the Mojave Desert and the Lewis and Clark corridor in the West, to the Maine Woods and the Everglades in the East.

Pope noted that the Administration's broad and complex proposal has many details to be ironed out, and that he looked forward to the Sierra Club working with the Administration and Congress to perfect the mechanics of this bold proposal.

"A major increase in federal funding for land acquisition has long been needed," Pope added. "There is a tremendous backlog in land purchases. The legacy of America's lands deserves this kind of attention. Now, it is essential that Congress embrace the Administration's goal and fulfill its promise to Americans to protect America's natural heritage for our children."


The proposal


The President's "Land Legacy Initiative" is an unprecedented investment in our natural resources. It will total over a billion dollars and will be submitted with the President's FY2000 budget. It includes full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and then some. It will be administered by various agencies, including Interior, Agriculture and NOAA. This year, their request is discretionary, to be approved by Congress. But the President is expected to announce that in next year's budget (FY2001) the program will become mandatory, off-budget and not nearly as subject to the whims of Congress. This program must pass through Congress this year as part of the budget process. Here are some of the details.

It includes $442 million in federal land acquisitions. Acquisition priorities mentioned by the administration include:

  • 450,000 acres within and around Mojave and Joshua Tree National Parks in California
  • Lands within national forests and refuges in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and New York
  • Lands critical to the federal-state restoration efforts in the Everglades
  • Lewis and Clark trail along the Missouri River
  • Civil War battlefields

Coordinated with Gore's sprawl announcement (Livability Agenda), the new Lands Legacy program will also provide grants to state and local governments and land trusts:

  • $150 million in matching grants for land or easements for greenways, wetlands, habitat, urban parks, greenways, etc.
  • Matching grants for open space planning and "smart growth" in rural areas
  • $50 million for easements for threatened farmland and open space
  • $50 million for easements to protect forest habitat, and $80 m for habitat conservation plans

The program will also include close to $200 million in funding for federal and state efforts to protect ocean and coastal resources, including marine sanctuaries, and restoration of fisheries and coral reefs.

The President is also calling on Congress to extend permanent Wilderness protection to more than 5 million acres within National Parks and Monuments. These are areas already recommended for Wilderness by the agencies. This includes: Arches, Big Bend, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Crater Lake, Glacier, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, Zion. Cedar Breaks, Colorado and Dinosaur National Monuments. Assateague/Chincoteague Island, Cumberland Gap.