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11. Protect the Environment

As a result of tremendous work by State and local governments, the environmental community, the private sector, and the Federal Government, much progress has been made in the past quarter century in protecting our land, our air, and our water in the United States. Recognizing these achievements, the Nation must make further progress.

Continued significant improvement in environmental quality can best be achieved by fostering local stewardship of our resources and encouraging innovative methods of pollution control. The budget reflects these priorities by providing historic levels of funding for conservation, especially in partnership with State and local officials, and providing more flexibility for State and local governments to craft solutions to control pollution in their own communities. Beyond funding the programs that will implement these priorities, the budget includes policies that will encourage these goals, such as providing a 50-percent capital gains tax exclusion to private landowners who voluntarily sell their land or water for conservation purposes and a permanent extension of favorable tax treatment of the costs of cleaning up contamination at abandoned waste sites, known as brownfields.

The Administration recognizes that reducing the role of Government can often have beneficial effects on public health and the environment. This budget includes proposals that reduce or eliminate such funding. For instance, making structures in frequently flooded areas ineligible for subsidized Federal flood insurance (a proposal in the budget for the Federal Emergency Management Agency) will improve the protection and aesthetics of riparian areas. Such proposals can also be found in the budgets of other Departments and agencies.

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): The budget proposes full funding of LWCF at $900 million starting in 2002 ($356 million over 2001), including $450 million for State and local conservation grants (see Chart 11 1). This is the highest LWCF budget request in history, reflecting the Administration's commitment to land conservation efforts. Over the next four years, the Administration will request more LWCF funds than provided during any other Administration.

Principally supported through receipts from oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf, the LWCF funds Federal, State, and local conservation, natural resource protection and outdoor recreation. Over time, however, the State and local component has been forgotten. The budget revitalizes this component, giving State and local agencies the matching funds and greater flexibility to address conservation needs with a bottom-up approach, not top-down guidance from Washington, D.C.

The LWCF will also build cooperative conservation partnerships through two new programs, financed with the Federal portion of the LWCF. The Administration will devote $50 million to provide matching grants for States to establish their own Landowner Incentive Programs, which assist private landowners in enhancing habitat for imperiled species while continuing to engage in traditional land management practices. Another $10 million will be used to establish a Private Stewardship Grant Program, which will provide grants directly to support local, private conservation efforts. For Federal land conservation, the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management will place a greater priority on alternative and innovative conservation tools, including easements, as well as land acquisition. In addition, Federal agencies will acquire lands from willing sellers only, and solicit input and participation from affected communities.

National Park Service (NPS) Deferred Maintenance Backlog: The conditions in many national parks have deteriorated in recent years, largely because the expansion in the number of national park units has exceeded both the NPS's ability to manage these facilities as well as the available funding. The Administration now seeks to focus attention on taking care of existing resources within the National Park System (see Chart 11 2).

Management reform is the first step for any effort to eliminate the NPS deferred maintenance backlog. NPS has recently taken steps to improve its procedures for estimating costs and approving projects, and it must continue to follow through on this effort. The Administration will accelerate efforts to complete objective assessments of facility conditions, institute maintenance management systems, and identify priorities in a clear and accountable manner. The goal is to establish by next year's budget a set of performance measures that can track the quality of facility maintenance performed, instead of just relying on the quantity of funding provided.

NPS estimates the deferred maintenance backlog at roughly $4.9 billion, with about $2.7 billion related to roads, bridges, and transportation projects normally funded through the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). The budget focuses on funding the $2.2 billion in non-road projects, most of which will be provided over five years through annual appropriations in non-road facility maintenance and construction accounts. The Administration will supplement this funding by extending the recreation fee demonstration program through 2006 and directing approximately 60 percent of the receipts toward deferred maintenance needs. NPS will also leverage additional funding resources through improved management of concessions, leases, and cooperative agreements with non-Federal partners. Because TEA-21 is not subject to reauthorization until 2004, the 2002 Budget defers decisions on increased park road funding and assumes the existing TEA-21 funding level, $165 million annually, continues through 2003.

As a downpayment to eliminate the NPS deferred maintenance backlog over five years, the budget allocates $440 million for non-road projects, a 30-percent increase over 2001.

Although new park facility maintenance needs will continue to emerge, the combination of increased funding and management reforms will allow NPS to find the point where sustainable funding levels cover capital replacement costs. At this point of equilibrium, the backlog will be eliminated.

In addition to addressing deferred maintenance needs, the Administration will enhance natural resource protection in parks by strengthening science-based management through the Natural Resource Challenge. To fund this initiative, the budget increases NPS operations by $20 million to accelerate biological resource inventories, control non-native species, and preserve endangered and threatened species habitat on park lands.

Innovative Pollution Control: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will set high standards for environmental protection, make those expectations clear, and focus on results and performance. To reach those goals, EPA will place a greater emphasis on innovative approaches to environmental protection, such as market-based incentives. Command and control approaches to pollution control, while effective in the past, are no longer as effective for achieving significant improvements in environmental protection. EPA will provide more flexibility to State and local officials to craft solutions that meet the needs of their local communities. It will also redirect resources to develop new, more effective methods to achieve environmental progress. In addition, the Administration intends to reform the current single-pollutant approach to regulating existing electric utility plants with a multi-pollutant approach, which would provide regulatory certainty to utilities, phase in reductions over a reasonable period, and make use of market-based incentives to further clean up the environment.

Tropical Forest Initiative: As discussed in Chapter 24, the President is committed to increase resources for the protection of tropical forests. In 1998, Congress passed the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA), which the President supports. The 2002 Budget will make more funds available for "debt-for-nature" swaps and other market-oriented methods authorized under the TFCA to protect tropical forests.

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