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The Land and Water Conservation Fund Turns 50

By Julie Waterman

Today the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) celebrates its 50th anniversary.  Not all Americans are familiar with LWCF, but they are probably familiar with parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, urban wildlife refuges, trails and open space that have been protected or built with the support of this effective federal program.

As one of the most successful pieces of legislation in the nation, LWCF has supported more than 42,000 projects in 98% of the nation’s counties. And since its creation in 1964, LWCF has had strong bipartisan support.  Over the past half century, more than $4.1 billion has been appropriated to states not through tax payer dollars, but through revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling royalties.  This funding has been matched by state and local contributions, for a total LWCF grant investment of $8.2 billion–doubling the return on investment.

But in September 2015, LWCF will expire unless Congress decides to reauthorize it.

That is why the City Parks Alliance launched the bipartisan Mayors for Parks coalition. Mayors around the country recognize the importance of LWCF and are taking action to ensure it continues to serve their communities.  The coalition is urging full funding at $900 million annually and reauthorization of LWCF before its expiration date next year. Co-chairs of the coalition are Mayor Michael B. Hancock (D) of Denver, CO and Mayor Betsy Price (R) of Fort Worth, TX.  The Mayors for Parks coalition now has 28 mayors on board, representing cities of all sizes across the United States.  
Mayors know that investment in community parks helps grow local economies by creating jobs, increasing property values, and attracting the kinds of businesses, workforces, and private capital that will make metropolitan and urban areas competitive in today’s global economy. LWCF funding is an essential resource for cities as they seek to develop new or revitalize existing urban parks, green spaces, and recreation opportunities.

Mayors also know that accessible parks are critical to improving the health of all Americans by contributing to the reduction of obesity and its associated public health costs.  And, they understand that city green spaces provide wide-ranging ecosystem benefits by helping to keep our urban waters clean, removing air pollution, and lowering the urban heat island effect, which reduces energy costs.

Renewal of this important piece of legislation is critical for our nation’s future health and growth. Without congressional reauthorization, local and state leaders will lose an important source of funding for much needed outdoor recreation opportunities.

This past June, the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) adopted the coalition’s LWCF/Urban Parks resolution that Mayor Betsy Price presented at its annual conference in Dallas.  This resolution supported reauthorization and full funding of LWCF at the $900 million level.  The resolution cited the role parks play in creating healthy communities and healthy economies in urban areas around the country.

In July and August, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited Mayors for Parks coalition members Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth, TX, Mayor William Bell of Birmingham, AL, Mayor Jim Brainard of Carmel, IN and Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix, AZ to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passage of LWCF.  These events highlighted the importance of urban parks and called on Congress to renew and fully fund LWCF.

We are thrilled that mayors around the country are joining Mayors for Parks and are providing a new voice to this important issue.  We ask you to urge your mayor to join Mayors for Parks and to contact your representatives and urge them to reauthorize LWCF before it sunsets in 2015.

Thank you, and Happy 50th Anniversary LWCF!

Julie Waterman is the Advocacy Program Manager for City Parks Alliance.  To find out more about Mayors for Parks and how you can get your mayor involved, contact Julie at jwaterman@cityparksalliance.org, or call 202-974-5139.

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