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Houston Regional Group - News
Contact Senators Hutchison and Cornyn to Save Columbia Bottomland Acquisitions
Brandt Mannchen

Your help is needed immediately to save funding for the Columbia Bottomlands forest of San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge (SBNWR) and land acquisition for our national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests all across the United States!

People from the Nation's fourth largest city and people from all over the world use the Columbia Bottomlands and other habitats found in the SBNWR for hunting, fishing, birding, environmental education, photography, canoeing, kayaking, boating, wildlife observation, nature study, and many other low impact and compatible recreational, educational, and scientific activities.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.1, the proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 appropriations bill (a.k.a. the Continuing Resolution or "CR") which will zero out funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This bill has now been sent to the U.S. Senate. The LWCF is already paid for; does not consist of taxpayer dollars; and uses a very small percentage of oil/gas drilling receipts to acquire important biological, ecological, scenic, and historic areas to add to our public national parks, refuges, and forests. LWCF monies are not taxpayer dollars!

President Obama included $4 million in his FY 2011 budget request for Columbia Bottomlands projects at SBNWR. If Congress zeros out LWCF funding these projects will not occur. The House CR would reduce LWCF to $59 million, the lowest level in its 46 year history and a 90% cut from FY 2010 levels. This represents a direct attack on the LWCF, not a rollback to previous levels. It would mean that no funding would be available to continue the Columbia Bottomlands project at SBNWR.

This CR prevents revenues deposited in the LWCF from being used and thus makes the funds disappear forever. The LWCF was created by Congress in 1964 as a way to compensate for the damage that offshore oil/gas drilling causes by using the LWCF to buy important biological lands to add to our public lands system. Congress should not break this long-standing commitment.

The levels proposed in the CR are barely enough to cover the administrative costs of previously-funded projects and activities. They will not protect one single additional acre of land, and so, for the first time in nearly 50 years, there would be NO resources to respond to current threats.

LWCF is a wise economic investment and its elimination will have an immediate impact on thousands of communities across the country. It will lead to a loss of drinking water quality, jobs in the woods, working ranches, Civil War battlefields, American historic sites, access for hunters and fishermen, and community parks and recreation sites.

Outdoor recreation and tourism are critical parts of our nation's economy, creating jobs and economic opportunity even in times of economic crisis. In 2010, the outdoor recreation industry's retail sales grew by almost 10 percent over the previous year. The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) reports that recreation contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy and supports nearly 6.5 million jobs across the U.S. When land is developed rather than conserved, the benefits to the outdoor recreation economy are lost forever.

The LWCF provides landowners the important option of selling their property to achieve their financial objectives. Many landowners - ranging from elderly widowers and family trusts to ranchers and forest owners - are seeking to conserve their land through a sale to a public agency as a means of generating needed capital. By cutting LWCF funding, Congress will pull the rug out from under these willing seller landowners, many of whom are partway through these contracted sales and are counting on LWCF funding to complete them.

Please write a letter to Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (U.S. Senate, Houston Office, 1919 Smith Street, Suite 800, Houston, Texas 77002-8051) and John Cornyn (U.S. Senate, Southeast Texas office, 5300 Memorial Drive, Suite 980, Houston, Texas 77007) using the sample letter below to customize your response. Tell your Senators that you want the LWCF and funding for Columbia Bottomlands projects in SBNWR protected. Request that your letter be forwarded to the Washington, D.C. office of the Senators.

For more information contact Brandt Mannchen, 713-664-5962 or brandtshnfbt@juno.com. Thanks for your help!

Sample Letter

The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison
U.S. Senate
Houston Office
1919 Smith Street, Suite 800
Houston, Texas 77002-8051

Dear Senator Hutchison,

I urge you to support continued funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 appropriations process and fight efforts to eliminate the program. LWCF is a congressionally authorized annual income stream that comes from federal offshore oil/gas royalties. Over its 46-year history, the LWCF program has dramatically protected open space and wildlife habitat and offered excellent recreational opportunities to sportsmen, hikers, and other lovers of the outdoors.

Texas’s national refuges, parks, and forests have greatly benefited from LWCF. Texas has received $478 million from the program to expand public access at sites such as San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge (SBNWR). The President’s FY 2011 Budget Request for LWCF includes $4 million for the SBNWR to acquire parcels associated with the Columbia Bottomlands. These acquisitions will preserve the upper Texas coast’s ecologically richest bottomland forest and offer additional recreational opportunities for visitors.

Important conservation projects will be halted under the funding levels proposed for LWCF in H.R.1, the House-passed FY Year 2011 Continuing Resolution. H.R. 1 provides no funding for LWCF land acquisition activities for the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management. The levels proposed are barely sufficient to cover the administrative costs of previously-funded projects and activities. Consequently, the Columbia Bottomlands and other critical land preservation projects would be directly threatened.

LWCF is an investment that provides public access for recreation and protects our waters, wildlife and open spaces. I urge you to defend this important program when the Senate begins debate on the FY 2011 appropriations bill for the Department of Interior.

Sincerely,

 

March 2011

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Last updated:  02/27/2011.   Content 1999-2011 by the Sierra Club.