The time is now to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Looking up through the trees into a clear sunny skyMaryland is filled with hidden treasures of natural beauty. A true “America in miniature,” our wonderful state has towering tree-covered mountains in the west, and long stretches of sand-covered beaches on our Eastern Shore, and is home to the bountiful Chesapeake Bay. 

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has supported or enhanced the protection of many of the most special parks and other natural areas across the state. The Fund was permanently authorized in 2019, but that does not guarantee that the $900 million put into the LWCF account every year will be spent on conservation. Over the 55 years of the program, billions of dollars have been siphoned from the fund for other non-conservation purposes. In fact, this past fiscal year 2020, only $495 million was appropriated to LWCF—far short of full funding, and yet the highest amount in 15 years.

That means the money that should have gone to increasing recreation opportunity for all, protecting our parks from being sold off to the highest bidder, providing close-to-home playgrounds and ballfields to support healthy kids and families, safeguarding our drinking water supplies, and keeping working forests in sustainable operation instead of subdivided and developed — went somewhere else. 

There has been unprecedented bipartisan support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act in both the House and Senate. On March 3, President Trump announced via Twitter that he would sign permanent LWCF funding legislation and funding for our National Parks. Since then, major developments are underway to introduce and pass such a joint bill in the Senate, by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).  We expect the House to introduce similar legislation soon. (Information from: https://www.lwcfcoalition.com/fundlwcf)

So, what can we do to help the fight to #FundLWCF? 

It is crucial that our elected officials hear from the people who love our public lands, benefit from LWCF in their home communities, enjoy having open space in their cities and towns, like having their drinking water protected, and want to secure access to lands and waters for recreational activities. 

Contacting your Members of Congress, via phone, email, social media, etc, and signing the petition are great ways to help #FundLWCF>>

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has provided funding to help protect some of Maryland’s most special places and ensure recreational access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. 

Maryland has received approximately $231.8 million in LWCF funding over the past five decades, protecting places such as the Assateague Island National Seashore, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Monocacy National Battlefield and the C&O Canal National Historic Park.

Forest Legacy Program (FLP) grants are also funded under LWCF, to help protect working forests. The FLP cost-share funding supports timber sector jobs and sustainable forest operations while enhancing wildlife habitat, water quality and recreation. 

For example, the FLP contributed to places such as the Broad Creek in Dublin and the Coastal Bay project in Snow Hill. FLP has directly protected 2,014 acres in Maryland. The program assists states and private forest owners to maintain working forest lands through matching grants for permanent conservation easement and fee acquisitions, and has leveraged approximately $4.6 million in federal funds to invest in Maryland’s forests. These forests enhance air and water quality and provide wildlife habitat and recreational access.

LWCF state assistance grants have further supported hundreds of projects across Maryland’s state and local parks including Conquest Waterfront Preserve in Queen Anne’s County and Seneca State Park in Montgomery County.

Economic Benefits

Active outdoor recreation is an important part of the Maryland economy. The Outdoor Industry Association has found that active outdoor recreation generates $14 billion in consumer spending in Maryland; provides 109,000 jobs that generate $4.4 billion in wages and salaries; and produces nearly $951 million annually in state and local tax revenue. Further, the U.S. Census reports that each year over 2.7 million people hunt, fish, or enjoy wildlife-watching in Maryland, contributing over $1.6 billion in wildlife recreation spending to the state economy.

Funding in Maryland

Federal Total $ 134,400,000
Forest Legacy Program $ 4,600,000
American Battlefield Protection Program $ 3,000,000
Habitat Conservation (Sec. 6) $ 3,500,000
State Program Total State Grants $ 85,300,000
Total $ 231,800,000

Resources:

Factsheet of Maryland LWCF

Majority Leader Hoyer: The time is now to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Maryland is filled with hidden treasures of natural beauty. A true “America in miniature,” our wonderful state has towering tree-covered mountains in the west, and long stretches of sand-covered beaches on our Eastern Shore, and is home to the bountiful Chesapeake Bay. 

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has supported or enhanced the protection of many of the most special parks and other natural areas across the state. The Fund was permanently authorized in 2019, but that does not guarantee that the $900 million put into the LWCF account every year will be spent on conservation. Over the 55 years of the program, billions of dollars have been siphoned from the fund for other non-conservation purposes. In fact, this past fiscal year 2020, only $495 million was appropriated to LWCF—far short of full funding, and yet the highest amount in 15 years.

That means the money that should have gone to increasing recreation opportunity for all, protecting our parks from being sold off to the highest bidder, providing close-to-home playgrounds and ballfields to support healthy kids and families, safeguarding our drinking water supplies, and keeping working forests in sustainable operation instead of subdivided and developed — went somewhere else. 

There has been unprecedented bipartisan support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act in both the House and Senate. On March 3, President Trump announced via Twitter that he would sign permanent LWCF funding legislation and funding for our National Parks. Since then, major developments are underway to introduce and pass such a joint bill in the Senate, by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Cory Gardner (R-CO).  We expect the House to introduce similar legislation soon. (Information from: https://www.lwcfcoalition.com/fundlwcf)

So, what can we do to help the fight to #FundLWCF? 

It is crucial that our elected officials hear from the people who love our public lands, benefit from LWCF in their home communities, enjoy having open space in their cities and towns, like having their drinking water protected, and want to secure access to lands and waters for recreational activities. 

Contacting your Members of Congress, via phone, email, social media, etc, and signing the petition are great ways to help #FundLWCF>>

Here’s a partial list of public lands in our state that receive funding directly through the Land and Water Conservation Fund in District 5- are any of these your favorites?

Park/ Facility  Address
Belts Woods Natural Environmental Area    Church Rd, Bowie, MD 20721
Calvert Cliffs State Park 10540 H G Trueman Rd, Lusby, MD 20657
Cedarville State Forest 10201 Bee Oak Rd, Brandywine, MD 20613
Chapel Point State Park Chapel Point Rd, Port Tobacco, MD 20677
Hallowing Point Boating Facilities  Prince Frederick, Calvert Co
Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary and Visitor Center  11704 Fenno Rd, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Patuxent River NRMA  (Various)
Point Lookout State Park 11175 Point Lookout Rd, Scotland, MD 20687
Rosaryville State Park 7805 W Marlton Ave, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Smallwood State Park  2750 Sweden Point Rd, Marbury, MD 20658
St. Clement’s Island State Park Coltons Point, MD 20626
St. Mary’s River State Park/Fishing Lake  21250 Camp Cosoma Rd, Leonardtown, MD 20650
Zekiah Swamp Natural Environmental Area  La Plata, MD 20646
Nanjemoy WMA  8420 Riverside Rd, Nanjemoy, MD 20662

 

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has provided funding to help protect some of Maryland’s most special places and ensure recreational access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. 

Maryland has received approximately $231.8 million in LWCF funding over the past five decades, protecting places such as the Assateague Island National Seashore, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Monocacy National Battlefield and the C&O Canal National Historic Park.

Forest Legacy Program (FLP) grants are also funded under LWCF, to help protect working forests. The FLP cost-share funding supports timber sector jobs and sustainable forest operations while enhancing wildlife habitat, water quality and recreation. 

For example, the FLP contributed to places such as the Broad Creek in Dublin and the Coastal Bay project in Snow Hill. FLP has directly protected 2,014 acres in Maryland. The program assists states and private forest owners to maintain working forest lands through matching grants for permanent conservation easement and fee acquisitions, and has leveraged approximately $4.6 million in federal funds to invest in Maryland’s forests. These forests enhance air and water quality and provide wildlife habitat and recreational access.

LWCF state assistance grants have further supported hundreds of projects across Maryland’s state and local parks including Conquest Waterfront Preserve in Queen Anne’s County and Seneca State Park in Montgomery County.

Economic Benefits

Active outdoor recreation is an important part of the Maryland economy. The Outdoor Industry Association has found that active outdoor recreation generates $14 billion in consumer spending in Maryland; provides 109,000 jobs that generate $4.4 billion in wages and salaries; and produces nearly $951 million annually in state and local tax revenue. Further, the U.S. Census reports that each year over 2.7 million people hunt, fish, or enjoy wildlife-watching in Maryland, contributing over $1.6 billion in wildlife recreation spending to the state economy.

Funding in Maryland

Federal Total $ 134,400,000
Forest Legacy Program $ 4,600,000
American Battlefield Protection Program $ 3,000,000
Habitat Conservation (Sec. 6) $ 3,500,000
State Program Total State Grants $ 85,300,000
Total $ 231,800,000

Resources:

Factsheet of Maryland LWCF

2020 Legislative Wrap Up

By Kim Coble, Executive Director

This year’s post-session wrap-up is coming three weeks before it normally would, due to these unprecedented times.  What is normally a recap of what bills did or didn’t pass, this year we need to look at things through a slightly fuzzier lens: what passed, what didn’t pass due to legislative inaction, and what was abruptly discarded due to a public health crisis.

At the time the session was curtailed, Maryland LCV and the environmental community were on track to have a successful legislative session, with strong, ambitious legislation passing in the sectors of transportation, energy, resiliency, water, and agriculture.

Unfortunately, as the coronavirus required us to socially distance ourselves, it also meant many of those bills ended up on the figurative cutting room floor. We are still proud of the progress we made, which sets us up for future success. The groundwork we laid on key issues is essential as we face the global crisis of climate change.

There were literally dozens of bold, visionary bills presented this session, most of which were not passed. Here are some of the highlights:

To see the full legislative summary, go here.

Oysters: One of the clearest victories of the year was to further protect our oysters. The veto of last year’s bill – creating an oyster fisheries management program – was overridden. A corrective bill to fix the dates complicated by the veto’s delay passed both chambers unanimously.

  • HB720-19/SB830-19 (Barve/Elfreth)Natural Resources – Fishery Management Plans – Oysters
  • HB911/SB808 (Gilchrist/Elfreth)Natural Resources – Fishery Management Plans – Oysters

Resiliency: In the face of a public health emergency, the necessity of preparing for emergencies brought on by climate change came into sharper relief.  A bill that gives counties the bonding authority for resiliency projects passed, as did one that allows the Bay Restoration Fund to be used to support similar efforts under limited circumstances.

  • HB78/SB172 (Watson/Hester)Bay Restoration Fund-Authorized Uses
  • HB539/SB457 (Watson/Elfreth)Local Governments – Resilience Authorities – Authorization

Pesticides: After a pitched battle, the General Assembly passed a phase-out ban of Chlorpyrifos – a dangerous pesticide connected to negative health impacts in children.

  • HB229/SB300 (Stein/Lam)Pesticides – Use of Chlorpyrifos – Prohibition

Several bills were blocked by negative votes, departmental opposition, or deliberate legislative inaction:

  • HB432/SB423 (Korman/Zucker)Zero-Emission Bus Transition Act – This bill would have mandated that all future purchases in the state’s transit bus fleets be for electric vehicles.  It passed the House and the Budget and Tax Committee in the Senate, but an abstention in the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee gave it an untimely unfavorable vote.
  • HB98/SB168 (Davis/Kelley)Electricity – Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Qualifying Biomass: This bill would have removed “black liquor” from the resources receiving subsidies as a clean energy resource as part of Renewable Portfolio Standard. This bill received an unfavorable vote in the Senate Finance Committee.

Transportation: A number of important bills were introduced that would have made considerable progress in our transportation sector by adequately funding existing public transportation systems, and transitioning the entire fleet of state vehicles and buses, as well as private vehicles, to electric. Of these, the bill to adequately fund public transit came the closest to making it through both chambers, passing on a party line vote in the House of Delegates but not receiving a vote in the Senate:

  • HB368/SB424 (Lierman/Zucker):  Transit Safety and Investment Act: Passed house

Energy: Maryland has made great strides in recent years to transform our energy sector from polluting fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy.  The urgency of the climate crisis inspired dozens of bills to address the energy production and use sector.  The three bills that made progress before the abrupt end to session promoted architectural changes to state-owned buildings to reduce energy consumption (and protect birds), required the Public Service Commission to consider climate impacts when approving projects, and updating our state emission reductions goals while offering tangible steps to reach those goals. Each of these received votes in one chamber, but failed to advance in the second due to time-restrictions.

  • HB192/SB299 (Hill/Guzzone-Lam) – Maryland Sustainable Buildings Act: Passed house
  • HB531/SB656 (Charkoudian/Kramer) – Utility Regulation-Consideration of Climate and Labor: Passed senate
  • HB1425/SB926 (Stein/Pinsky) – Climate Solutions Act of 2020:  Passed both senate committees

Resiliency: While we work to lessen the effects of climate change, our state also must move to protect our communities and environment from the crises that we are facing right now. A suite of bills worked to confront these concerns, including one creating a State Resilience Office at the Emergency Management Service and another that created an ombudsman in the Attorney General’s office to facilitate environmental enforcement and transparency of data.

  • HB614/SB460 (Lierman/Elfreth) – Environmental Accountability and Transparency Act: Passed senate
  • SB721 (Hester) – Emergency Management – Chief Resilience Officer – Appointment and Duties: Passed senate

Water: While the oyster legislation was a strong victory for Maryland’s waterways, other bills that would have addressed the health of our waters failed to make it over the finish line, despite a strong start. One, that would have created better systems of licensing for septic system inspectors who are on the front line of preventing septic run-off into our waterways, failed to reach the priority level to move to the floor in the last days.  The other would have banned plastic bags at check-out throughout the state, which moved to the senate floor on the last day of the abbreviated session and failed to make it through second reader.

  • SB254 (Young) – On-site Sewage Disposal Systems – Inspection – Licensing: Passed senate
  • HB209/SB313 (Lierman/Augustine) Plastics and Packaging Reduction Act: Passed house

Thanks to your online advocacy (over 6,000 emails to legislators!), calls to your legislators (almost 250 patch-thru calls!), in person lobby visits, and attending rallies in Annapolis we were able to make the progress we did make. The work you do is essential to protecting our air, land, water, and communities. 

Advancing strong environmental legislation is essential as we face the global crisis of climate change. As the environmental watchdog in Maryland, we will be keeping a close watch over the special session planned for May and we plan to release a 2020 Environmental Scorecard in the coming months.

Thank you for being a conservation voter,

Kim Coble, Maryland LCV
Executive Director

The full legislative summary is here.

Stay connected with us while practicing social distancing:

  

Where you’ll find the lobbyists in Annapolis

By Kristen Harbeson, resident Lobbyist and Political Director

I love tracking my steps during session – wondering how many miles I logged in a day.  Although there are days when my feet ache from all the walking, there is at least as much sitting as there is walking: sitting in committee rooms (and occasionally on the floor outside of committee rooms); sitting around tables during coalition meetings and while talking to legislators; sitting in the public lounges for emergency conversations with colleagues.

One of the most likely places you’ll find me during much of the Session is in a wingback chair in the hallway on the second floor of the House Office Building.  From there, I can talk to Delegates and their staff pass by on their way to and from the Environment and Transportation and Economic Matters Committees.  I’m not the only one who tends to find herself there – it’s a spot where lobbyists from every kind of advocacy group will find a place to take a call, charge their phones, or catch a few minutes on their laptops between meetings.

These kinds of relaxed locations are where conversations happen that build community, and sometimes provide news in bits and pieces that, when taken together, can help provide context to help shape a legislative strategy.

Ramon Palencia-Calvo, our Deputy Director testifies for one of our priority pieces of legislation.

Ramon Palencia-Calvo, our Deputy Director testifies for one of our priority pieces of legislation.

This week there was a hearing on our first priority bill.  Ramon testified on the importance of fully funding the Maryland Transit Authority, which has a $2 billion shortfall over the next ten years according to a study released last summer. The MTA serves every jurisdiction in the state, but low-income and already disadvantaged communities suffer the most from failures due to inadequate maintenance. Additionally, a strong, affordable, and accessible public transportation system is essential to reducing Maryland’s greenhouse gas pollution. (Did you know that the transportation sector – especially highway traffic – represents more than 40% of our greenhouse gasses?!) This is always an important moment in a campaign.  It’s the first time that arguments for and against are presented side by side, and examined by the committees who make the decision of what happens next. It’s a little bit like a play, and a little bit like a polite boxing match.

In this case, the hearing was in front of the House Appropriations Committee which works with the State Budget.  Ramon, and all of our partners provided strong testimony after the bill was presented by Delegate Lierman.  The Department of Transportation spoke against the bill, which isn’t uncommon, especially for bills that require the Governor to spend money in a specific way. Next week, the same bill will be heard in the Senate, and then we work on the next step: A vote from subcommittee.

Sitting or standing, or running through the halls, you can count on your Maryland LCV staff working hard next week to pass strong environmental laws.  Next week we’ll have some marathon bill hearings, too, so stay tuned!

Talk about changing the body politic!

By Kristen Harbeson, Political Director

Folk singer Pete Seeger, one of my great heroes, once said that “when you bring people together, even if just for a beer, you’re changing the body politic.” He knew what he was talking about. Pete’s music was an important part of the soundtrack for social change in the 20th century, especially for both labor rights and the environment.

Kristen Harbeson speaks at the 2020 MDEnviroSummit

Bringing people together, and changing the body politic, is a pivotal part of the work of your Maryland LCV staff and our partners. On any given week, Maryland LCV staff participate in as many as 15-20 different conference calls or coalition meetings relating to our priorities and how we all can work together to advance our agenda.  These are in addition to the dozens of other conversations, in groups of two and three and four, which propel us forward in the session dance.  Periodically there are public meetings like the one that Dannielle and I went to on off-shore wind in Ocean City (and that Dannielle wrote about).

By far the best demonstration of bringing people together to change the body politic, though, happened this week during the annual Environmental Summit when 30 organizations that make up the Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment (CCE) gather together with hundreds of advocates to unveil and showcase the bills we selected as our priorities. For the last two years, I’ve had the joy of being able to – as the chairman of CCE – welcome everyone to the event and kick off the program.  There is simply nothing like standing in front of a room of five hundred advocates ready to charge forward and make a difference.  It’s a tremendous honor to be able to help coordinate the extraordinary table of environmental leaders that do so much amazing work during the ninety-day session and beyond.

But that’s not what I will remember most as we move through the next 68 days of Session.  What I will remember are the words of the 18-year old keynote speaker, Athena Verghis, who left the packed room with the following words:

“We stand here convinced of a bright future for Maryland, because when we change the root, we can change the crop. Let us replace the root of ignorance with much needed understanding and unwavering commitment to the future.  Let us replace frustration with hope. As global citizens for tomorrow I want to leave with one message: There is not enough time for us to point fingers and promise short-term gain that will only benefit a few citizens. However there is just enough time to recognize the urgency of this climate emergency. For every single individual in this room to fulfill his or her role as legislative leaders or social influencers and to commit and create systemic change that benefits all living things that call Maryland their home. Because this is your backyard as well as our future.”

I, and every person walking out of that room, left with a renewed sense of hope and urgency, committed to doing everything we could to move our state forward. Talk about changing the body politic! Pete Seeger would have been proud.