President Bushs Commitment to Environmental Conservation and Stewardship
Land and Water Conservation Fund: The LWCF may be the most successful federal-state-local partnership for conservation in American history. The Presidents FY 03 budget proposal once again fully funds the LWCF (for the second year in a row) at more than $900 million to support a variety of conservation approaches including increasing funding to states and local communities to $200 million, a $56 million increase over FY 02 funding, and a $110 million increase over FY 01 funding. Under the prior administration, LWCF funding for states was phased out and the money was reserved exclusively for federal land acquisitions. The Presidents FY 03 budget proposal recognizes that federal land acquisition is not the only way to conserve land and other natural resources, and allows funds to be used for conservation easements.
Protecting our National Parks: residents FY 03 budget includes the largest National Parks operations budget ever submitted. The Presidents budget reflects his strong support for the National Parks Legacy Project that he announced last year to eliminate the park maintenance backlog. Approximately 25 percent of the Presidents record FY 03 $665 million budget request for maintenance backlog will be spent on projects that benefit critical natural resource needs.
The Presidents FY 03 budget also includes an $18 million increase (to $67.5 million) for the Natural Resource Challenge, a science-based initiative to strengthen natural resource management throughout the National Park system by protecting native species and habitats, improving the health of natural resources within parks, eradicating invasive species, and sharing information about natural resources with the public. Fifty-two parks will have programs to measure park resource health by the end of 2003.
Protecting our National Wildlife Refuges: The Presidents FY 03 budget proposes a record $376 million, up $57 million from FY02, for our National Wildlife Refuges. The National Wildlife Refuge system is celebrating its centennial year in 2003, and its Centennial Campaign will improve resource conservation, visitor programs, and facilities on wildlife refuges nationwide.
Promoting Cooperative Conservation: The President has proposed spending $100 million through the Department of Interior for a new Cooperative Conservation Initiative to protect and conserve the environment through partnerships that will tap Americans ingenuity, imagination, and innovative spirit. Challenge grants will be awarded competitively to landowners, environmental groups, land-user groups, communities and local and state governments.
Landowner Incentive Program and Private Stewardship Grant Programs: President Bush has worked to create new landowner incentive and private stewardship grant programs, which Congress funded at $50 million this year. The Presidents FY 03 budget includes an additional $10 million for a total of $60 million for these programs. The Presidents FY 03 budget includes $50 million in funding for the Landowner Incentive Program, which provides funds to states, tribes, and territories to make cost-sharing grants to landowners who voluntarily participate in the protection of habitat for endangered, threatened or other at-risk species on private or Tribal lands. Another $10 million will go to the Private Stewardship Grant Program, which directly assists individuals or groups involved in the voluntary conservation of wildlife habitat on private lands.
A Call for a Strong Conservation Title for the Farm Bill: President Bush believes that Americas agriculture policy should encourage the production of goods and services in more efficient, innovative, and environmentally beneficial ways. The President is working to ensure that the Farm Bill will bolster the stewardship of working lands through such programs as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Farmland Protection Program, and a new Grasslands Reserve Program. Expansion of other programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program, and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, are also important components of a strong conservation title in the Farm Bill. Greater use of these well-designed, voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs can provide environmental benefits, such as improved water quality, habitat, soil retention, and carbon sequestration.