Secretary Norton Announces $160 Million in State Grants from Land and Water Conservation Fund

U. S. Newswire

WASHINGTON, D.C. , Feb. 2, 2003/U.S. Newswire/ -- President Bush's proposed
budget for FY 2004 calls for Interior to distribute $160 million in
park and recreational grants to the 50 states, Secretary Norton
told Western leaders Friday.

"These grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund would be
the largest amounts distributed to the states under this program in
more than 20 years," Norton said in a telephone conference with the
governors of several Western states. "The allocations can help
state and local governments--many facing budget shortfallsinvest
in recreational projects so that all Americans will have access to
close-to-home parks and open spaces."

The FY 2004 state grant apportionment is a $16 million increase
above the 2002 level enacted by the Congress and a $10 million
increase above the President's proposed FY 2003 allocations. The
grants, which also go to the District of Columbia and the U.S.
territories, are funded from the Land and Water Conservation Fund,
which the President's budget would fully fund at $900 million.

The state grant program is a cornerstone of the Secretary's
commitment to involve state governments in conservation planning
activities. The states are responsible for analyzing their
recreational needs and setting priorities for funding, supervising
the selection of projects, and the work, and ensuring compliance
with federal guidelines.

"Local decision making is a key to this program and a priority
with this Administration," Secretary Norton noted. "The President
is keeping his commitment to help states and local governments make
the decisions that affect their daily lives."

The proposed FY 2004 grants, which are apportioned largely on
population, include $13.5 million for California, $8.2 million for
Texas, $8 million for New York, and $6.8 million for Florida. Most
states receive more than $2 million each on average.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided more than $3.4
billion to state and local governments since it was founded in
1965. These governments are required to match their grant 50/50,
which has doubled the nationwide investment to more than $6.8
billion. More than 38,000 projects have received funding and about
10,000 of those have added 2.3 million acres of state and local
park land.

The National Park Service, which manages the fund, evaluates and
approves grants and oversees project compliance and completion. The
grants help states develop and maintain high quality recreation
areas and stimulate non-federal investments in the protection and
maintenance of recreation resources across the United States.
Through the program, states have invested in outdoor recreation
planning, established and expanded their own scenic rivers and
trails, and encouraged their cities and counties to improve
planning and development of recreation resources.

During the past two decades, funding for state grants from the
Land and Water Conservation Fund averaged less than $32 million a
year. Congress did not appropriate funds for state grants from 1996
through 1999. President Bush promised to fully fund the Land and
Water Conservation Fund at $900 million and has proposed full
funding in each of his budget requests. Outer Continen-tal Shelf
oil and gas leasing is the primary source of revenue for the fund.

Other LWCF Funded Conservation Efforts

Under the President's proposal, the Land and Water Conservation
Fund would also provide $187.2 for federal land acquisition in
Interior and the USDA Forest Service, $515.7 million for other
conservation and recreation programs that advance the LWCF goals,
and $37.8 million for the USDA Forest Service Urban and Community
forestry program.

The innovative conservation programs include state and tribal
wildlife grants, endangered species and wetlands conservation
grants, USDA forest stewardship, private landowner stewardship and
incentive grants, as well as Secretary Norton's Cooperative
Conservation Initiative.

In the past, the success of the Land and Water Conservation
program has been measured by the amount of land the Federal
Government acquired, not by the quality of conservation and
recreation opportunities that took place on those lands. President
Bush is providing incentives for states, local governments,
community organizations, and private land owners to protect and
restore landscapes, enhance wildlife habitat, help to recover
species, and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities.

Through the Land and Water Conservation Fund program, the
Administration is providing a holistic approach that funds federal,
state, local, and private conservation and recreation programs that
address a wide range of needs. Reflecting the President's goals,
the Interior land acquisition program seeks to promote cooperative
alliances, leave land on state tax roles, and make the most
efficient use of this funding by emphasizing innovative
alternatives to fee simple title purchases, such as conservation
easements and land exchanges. This emphasis also enables Interior
land managers to focus more funds on caring for lands already under
their management.

Press Release
Contact: Frank Quimby of the U.S. Department of the Interior,
/U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/
02/03 11:26


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