NRPA often partners with other like organizations when dealing with legislative issues. During a recent conference call when I stated that NRPA members were losing interest in our battle to secure Land and Water Conservation Funds, a representative of one of the organizations was shocked. “Do they understand that this is the only appropriated legislation for parks and recreation that doesn’t require an agency to compete with other departments for funding?” he asked. Indeed, NRPA members do understood, I replied. But— when you consider that for the past few years states have received less than a combined $1 million, LWCF is a hard sell. Why should NRPA continue to put scarce resources toward fighting for a program that has given very little to local public park and recreation agencies over the last ten years?
I can think of a number of compelling reasons.
There’s the long legacy of LWCF State Assistance program accomplishments: the $7.4 billion directed to state and local parks since LWCF first passed Congress in 1965, the permanent protection of more than three million acres, and the funding of 40,400 projects in every state and 98 percent of the counties in our nation.
As my counterpart noted above, the LWCF State Assistance program is the only program that provides funding specifically for local park and recreation projects without requiring park and recreation agencies to compete against police, fire, and other community services for the funding. Congress has already given itself permission to spend this money, so why in this down economy would we want to start from scratch with anything else?
Again, NRPA is not asking Congress for new funding authorization but rather funds that come from a carefully crafted arrangement with offshore energy operators. When they drill, extract, and profit from the removal of non-renewable natural resources, they remit a portion of those monies to the federal government for developing new and existing parks at all levels. The more energy companies deplete in one area, the more natural, open space gets created for future generations to enjoy.
That’s a fair and winning formula, and to roll over and let a few as-yet-to-be enlightened members of Congress deny the field of parks and recreation what is legally theirs is just wrong. Thanks to the sophisticated and creative teamwork of NRPA’s government affairs staff and NRPA members, we have been able to secure funding of $45 million for Fiscal Year 2012, a $5 million increase over Fiscal Year 2011. That’s remarkable, considering the political climate in Washington. We consider this a victory for parks and recreation advocacy efforts and a further validation of the NRPA mission.
But such gains, as we have learned over the course of LWCF’s 47-year history, are transitory. The only constant in Washington is change—from the influx of new Congressional representatives to the changing economic climate in which we all work and live. So, when I am asked, “Why bother with LWCF?” I say there is no alternative to the hard work needed to secure the fiscal well-being of parks and recreation.
President and Chief Executive Officer