U.S. Congress Passes Great American Outdoors Act

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 22, 2020
Contact: Ben Alexandro, balexandro@mdlcv.org, 845-596-9634

U.S. Congress Passes Great American Outdoors Act

Landmark bill will protect open spaces in Maryland and throughout the United States

Washington, D.C. – By a bipartisan vote of 310-107, the U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), a landmark environmental bill that will restore parks and public lands in Maryland and across the country and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Act (LWCF). The bill, which passed the Senate on June 17, now heads to the White House for President Trump’s signature.

“The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is a significant victory for Maryland,” said Maryland League of Conservation Voters Executive Director, Kim Coble. “The bill guarantees that Marylanders will have access to clean, safe, and healthy parks for years to come.”

The Great American Outdoors Act will allow the National Park Service to restore resources that are deteriorating due to age and inconsistent funding. In Maryland alone, park sites that welcome nearly 7 million visitors and support more than 2,900 jobs each year require $244 million in repairs. The now-permanent LWCF funding is significant for Maryland: The state has received $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. Maryland also uses LWCF to leverage additional funds, such as state Program Open Space money that funds hundreds of facilities and creates access to local and state parks.

Coble lauded the role of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in shepherding the Great American Outdoors Act through Congress. “For decades, Marylanders have always known that Steny Hoyer would go to the mat for Maryland’s special places,” said Coble. “His tremendous leadership in moving the Great American Outdoors Act through Congress will provide lasting benefits to Marylanders and all Americans.”

The Maryland League of Conservation and its members weighed in heavily in support of the Great American Outdoors Act. Early in July, Maryland LCV organized 36 Maryland conservation groups to urge Rep. Hoyer’s continued leadership, and Maryland LCV reached hundreds of thousands of Marylanders through drive-time radio ads and extensive on-line advocacy in both English and Spanish. 

Here are quotes from other Maryland organizations that joined with us in advocating for the Great American Outdoors Act:

“Our parks are inundated with people — a great problem to have, but our parks need help so they can remain treasures that connect people to nature while preserving delicate ecosystems. The Great American Outdoors Act is that help,” said Emily Ranson, Clean Water Action, Maryland Director.

“The Alice Ferguson Foundation applauds Majority Leader Hoyer’s continuous leadership of environmental causes both locally and nationally. The Great American Outdoors Act will continue to ensure our national parks thrive for future generations,” said Theresa Cullen, Executive Director, Alice Ferguson Foundation.

“GAOA funding will support our Urban parks and recreational spaces that are used by millions of people close to home,” said  Jim Foster, President, Anacostia Watershed Society.

“This passage of the Great American Outdoors Act ensures that our irreplaceable Maryland parks and public lands will continue to be protected, and that all Marylanders will have access to nature. By continuing to provide funds for our parks we help cool our communities with green spaces as climate change heats up, and create opportunities to expand outdoor education programming,” said Denisse Guitarra, MD Conservation Advocate at Audubon Naturalist Society.

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 Maryland LCV is known for educating lawmakers and holding them accountable for their leadership and votes on key environmental issues. Their annual scorecard, along with other reports, help inform voters about their legislators’ records.

Maryland League of Conservation Voters
30 West Street, Suite C
Annapolis, MD 21401
www.mdlcv.org

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By |2020-07-22T17:45:40-04:00July 22nd, 2020|Categories: MDLCV|Comments Off on U.S. Congress Passes Great American Outdoors Act

Latino Conservation Week story opportunities

Tipsheet from Maryland League of Conservation Voters

To: Media
From: Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ Chispa Program
Date: July 20,2020
Re: Latino Conservation Week story opportunities

If you are interested in exploring story opportunities around Latino Conservation Week, we wanted to make sure that the Chispa Maryland program is on your radar. Chispa, which means “spark” in Spanish, is a program launched by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters in 2014. Chispa Maryland works with Latinx families, community groups, faith-based organizations, and elected officials to identify and address unique environmental issues facing Latinx communities in Maryland.July 18-26 is Latino Conservation Week, or Disfrutando y Conservando Nuestra Tierra. Latino Conservation Week, an initiative of Hispanic Access Foundation, was created to encourage and demonstrate the Latino community’s commitment to protecting our natural resources.

Chispa is also helping community partners overcome disproportional impacts associated with COVID-19; for example, Chispa recently raised more than $30,000 for the Langley Park MD community to help Latinx families with emergency assistance for rent, food, medicine, and other essential items. 

Beyond COVID, transportation issues are front-and-center for Chispa this year. Maryland’s Latino communities are burdened by transportation inequities, including unsafe streets, unstable walking and biking environments, and public transit that can be hard to access, unaffordable, and unreliable. This limits Latinos’ access to health-promoting assets ─ affordable housing, green spaces and physical activity, healthy food, medical care, good schools ─ and makes it harder for Latino families to lead healthy lives. Chispa will be working with Maryland’s Latinx communities in the coming year to ensure that their environmental, economic, and social equity goals receive attention from policymakers in transportation-planning decision making.

Chispa Maryland Director Ramon Palencia-Calvo is available for Latino Conservation Week interviews and can also connect you with Maryland partner groups and other Latino community leaders who are fighting for environmental justice in their communities. 

Contact:  Ramon Palencia-Calvo, 202.531.5091, rpcalvo@mdlcv.org

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By |2020-07-20T12:50:08-04:00July 20th, 2020|Categories: MDLCV|Comments Off on Latino Conservation Week story opportunities

Statement on Brown, Harris, Booker resolution

Kim Coble, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, issued the following statement today in support of a resolution by Senators Brown, Harris, and Booker to declare racism in the U.S. a public health crisis:

 “The Maryland League of Conservation Voters applauds this resolution from Senators Brown, Harris, and Booker and hopes it will be a first step in dismantling racial systemic policies that perpetuate health disparities and environmental degradation. Too many Marylanders of color suffer from mortality differences and a slew of other daily challenges, including environmental injustices. We need to commit to fighting these injustices and we must address public health problems that are exacerbated by racial disparities.”

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By |2020-07-15T16:49:28-04:00July 15th, 2020|Categories: MDLCV|Comments Off on Statement on Brown, Harris, Booker resolution

Keeping Parks Great and Green

By Kelly Peaks, 2020 Summer InternIntern Kelly out in nature

As a child, I remember always looking forward to playing in my local park, Louise F Cosca Park, after school. I loved the tire swing, the monkey bars, and, as far as my childhood brain could comprehend, the “life-size” pirate ship. I cherish those afternoons making friends with children in my community as we ran along the pond. Or the many church picnics that were held in the park’s recreational spaces. 

Parks have always been an important part of my life and have had a hand in shaping who I am today. These community parks that I frequented, Louise F Cosca, Watkins Regional Park, Henson Creek Park, and many more were partially funded by grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The upcoming House vote on Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) will strengthen park protections and ensure that national parks, as well as local parks, are able to be properly maintained and funded.

Parks have held a special place in my heart because they housed so many life events. One of those celebrations was the annual church picnics my family and I attended. The church picnics were a great way to bond with other parishioners outside of the church. My favorite activity was the nature walk where we would follow one of the many park trails. If we were fortunate enough to be in Watkins park, we would be able to ride the mini train that circled the property. Many of the families that attended the picnic lived in DC, so they didn’t readily have access to larger parks. The picnics were a wonderful way to provide the children with access to nature and teach them to respect and appreciate nature as an important part of our faith.

As a 24-year-old adult, I’ve outgrown the playground, but I’ve come to appreciate the other facets that parks have to offer. Access to nature and wildlife, beautiful views, and trails are only some of my favorite park activities. Since this pandemic has forced many of us to work from home, parks have become a place of solace. Parks have become such a popular destination because they are some of the only places we can enjoy while still being able to safely socially distance. 

The past few weeks my family has spent quite a few afternoons walking along the path in Henson Creek Park. It has felt amazing to have a way to safely get out of the house and to find some sense of normalcy. There were families there teaching their kids to ride a bike, observing the local wildlife, and simply bonding with nature. 

Personally, sitting inside all day, every day, can take a toll on my mental health. The times I’m able to take a break and take a walk have helped clear my head, boost my mood, and aid with efficiency. If I didn’t have access to parks, I think that self-quarantining would be more difficult for me. I am so thankful to have access to many parks in my district and hope that they remain open and cared for so that everyone can have access to nature for the duration of this quarantine.

The LWCF is a program that was created by Congress in 1964 to protect the nation’s natural and culturally significant areas and the resources around them, as well as provide recreational areas for citizens to enjoy. The program includes funds for National parks and refuges but also provides grants for states and localities that go towards smaller, community parks.

Every year, revenue from offshore oil and gas is supposed to go towards this fund, but a large portion of this money has been diverted from parks. Because of this, there is a backlog of maintenance needs totaling almost $30 billion, over $244 million in Maryland alone. The diversion of funds is jeopardizing park infrastructure, which endangers visitors’ health, safety, and enjoyment of parks. 

This is where the GAOA comes in to address these challenges by providing a more dedicated source of funding. It promises to end the diversion of funds and ensures that they are spent on their intended purpose: parks. It will also establish the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Fund which will direct money towards park repairs. Just last month, U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act. This is partially due to strong support from our great Maryland Senators as well as House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer. 

Rep. Hoyer has announced that at the end of this month this legislation will be voted on in the House, and with its strong bipartisan support, he is optimistic that it will pass and will officially be signed into law. I am grateful to Rep. Hoyer as well as our state senators for their leadership and commitment to bring it to the floor and I hope that it will pass. 

I’ve noticed maintenance issues over the past few years in these smaller parks. It has been little things like broken swings, fallen trees, and unkept trails. With the pandemic and the backlog of maintenance issues, these small things can turn into larger problems that prevent people from enjoying their local parks. In times like these, where nature is one of the only safe places that we can escape to, we need legislation like the Great American Outdoors Act to improve our parks and provide us with spaces to clear our minds, bond with family, and build lasting memories.

I hope you join me in adding your name to our petition to get this legislation passed. 

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By |2020-07-13T13:47:31-04:00July 13th, 2020|Categories: MDLCV|Comments Off on Keeping Parks Great and Green

Racial Justice Response Statement

June 4, 2020

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters and Maryland LCV Education Fund share your outrage, grief, and pain over the killings of George Floyd and other members of the Black community. We steadfastly stand in solidarity with those calling for justice, accountability, and an end to the systemic racism and insidious cycle of violence that is inflicted upon the community. For too long, too many Black communities have been disenfranchised, marginalized, polluted, and prevented from voting, speaking up, or even living without fear of arrest, injury, or worse. Black people have a right to safety, to enjoy the outdoors, to live without being harmed by environmental pollutants, and to vote. And we all have the responsibility to fight for these rights.

Maryland LCV commits to holding ourselves accountable to ensure racial equity is embedded in our programs and operations. We also commit to redoubling our efforts to elect and hold accountable leaders who will ensure the security and rights of all people equally and to continue our work to guarantee that all Marylanders – especially our Black and Brown brothers and sisters  – have an effective political voice and access to clean air and water and safe and healthy communities. We commit to being an organization that works tirelessly on behalf of all Marylanders, but especially members of Maryland’s Black and Brown communities, to protect the right to vote, to protest, to breathe.

For all in the Conservation Voter Movement and beyond who want to act now to be part of the solution, we urge you to seek out organizations and individuals that have been working on the front lines of this essential work to protect protestors and our basic human rights and dignity during this time.  We also strongly urge you to be part of the solution this November by exercising your right to vote.

National LCV’s statement

Below are a few articles that we will be taking to heart:

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By |2020-06-04T15:33:59-04:00June 4th, 2020|Categories: MDLCV|Comments Off on Racial Justice Response Statement

Salisbury Mayor Jake Day announces deployment

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund applauds Mayor Jake Day’s leadership and commitment to service. On behalf of our board, staff, and members, we wish him a productive and safe deployment. Mayor Day was our 2018 Teddy Roosevelt Award winner in recognition of his body of work that promises to leave a positive conservation legacy that mirrors the ethos of President Theodore R Roosevelt. We are proud of Mayor Day.

Check out our Theodore Roosevelt Award here.

The news article announcing his deployment.

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

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By |2020-05-27T22:42:15-04:00May 27th, 2020|Categories: MDLCV|Comments Off on The time is now to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund