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Supporters celebrate 50 years of successes for the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Washington, D.C. September 3, 2011  The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (LWCF), signed into law fifty years ago, this week, has been America’s most important conservation program for the past five decades. LWCF is responsible for protecting some of New York’s most important places, including the birthplace of the Appalachian Trail in Bear Mountain State Park, the far-reaching Gateway National Recreation Area and the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site. 

Key leaders of New York’s Congressional delegation joined with LWCF advocates in praising the program’s accomplishments and urged its reauthorization by September 2015.

“The Hudson River Valley represents the natural and economic strength of our community. Thanks to important legislation like the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, families in the Lower Hudson Valley are able to enjoy magnificent outdoor spaces free from debris, pollutants, and over-development. I will continue to fight to protect New York’s air, land, and water because it’s our duty to pass on a greener planet to the next generation” said Congresswoman Nita Lowey (NY-17).

“From Sterling State Park to Cranberry Mountain, the Land and Water Conservation Fund protects and preserves our Hudson Valley for future generations while creating thousands of jobs and growing our economy by bringing back millions of dollars to our communities. I'll continue to protect our nation’s natural treasures by continuing to fight for important bills like the Highlands Conservation Act and key land preservation projects all across New York,” said Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18).

“Throughout its 50 year history, the LWCF has been our nation’s most effective and far-reaching tool in conserving significant landscapes, protecting our natural resources and providing recreational access for generations of Americans,” said Kim Elliman, President and CEO of the Open Space Institute. “We applaud the work of the LWCF coalition and thank members of our New York delegation for their efforts to ensure this program’s successful continuation.”

Funding from LWCF plays a crucial role in New York, supporting the state’s billion dollar outdoor recreation economy. Outdoor recreation, much of it on LWCF-protected lands, supports 130,000 jobs across the state, generates nearly $800 million in annual state tax revenue and produces $11.3 billion in retail sales and services.

As important, the program protects the natural and cultural landscapes that define New York State, secure iconic places for outdoor recreation, and maintain resources on which we all depend. For example, funding from LWCF, leveraged with private philanthropy and funds from the states of New York and New Jersey, permanently protected 17,500 acres of Sterling Forest – ensuring the protection of drinking water for over 2.5 million New Jersey residents and the preservation of this natural treasure only an hour drive from New York City.  

LWCF dollars also protect drinking water supplies in America’s most populated metropolitan corridor by conserving the forested hills that run through New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania that provide clean drinking water to the cities of the Northeast. Through the authorization provided by the Highlands Conservation Act, more than $14 million in LWCF funding has leveraged more than $35 million in matching funds to protect 5,500 acres with high conservation value.

"The Land and Water Conservation Fund and Highlands Conservation Act are cornerstones of the Hudson Valley's conservation legacy, creating clean water and helping to drive our region’s $4.7 billion tourism economy. Together, they are essential tools that ensure the public’s access to the Hudson River, which has been designated an American Heritage River and Estuary of National Significance. We look forward to continuing our work with the Hudson Valley’s congressional delegation to renew support for these programs when Congress resumes session, and with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to put the programs to work for the people of New York,” said Ned Sullivan, President of Scenic Hudson.

“Over its 50-year history, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has conserved iconic landscapes like those around Bear Mountain State Park and along the Appalachian Trail in the New York Highlands, though much work remains. We thank the members of the New York delegation for joining us in commemorating the 50th anniversary of our nation’s most important conservation program. Congress should renew its pledge to protecting our most special public spaces for years to come by reauthorizing and fully funding Land and Water Conservation Fund before the end of this year’s Congressional session,” said Mark Zakutansky, Mid-Atlantic Policy Manager for the Appalachian Mountain Club.

About the Land and Water Conservation Fund
The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act was signed into law on September 3, 1964. This historic legislation established a dedicated and permanent means for the conservation and protection of America’s irreplaceable natural, historic, cultural and outdoor landmarks. LWCF is the only federal program dedicated to the continued conservation of our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness, civil war battlefields, as well as creating and developing state and local parks. It is rightly characterized as America’s most important conservation program.

LWCF does not use any taxpayer dollars – it is funded using a small portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas royalty payments. Outdoor recreation, conservation and historic preservation activities support 9.4 million jobs and contribute more than a trillion dollars annually to the U.S. economy.

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