More than half of the states have already proclaimed June 2019 Great Outdoors Month! Since 2008, Governors from across the country have joined the President in proclaiming this month-long celebration of America’s great outdoors. Click here for images and PDF versions of each proclamation.
The recreational demands of the 21st century are bringing new challenges for public land management. This PERC Public Lands Report examines some of the primary sources of funding for outdoor recreation-related opportunities on public lands, aiming to be informative rather than claiming to be exhaustive or comprehensive. It demonstrates that by many measures, inflation-adjusted recreation-related funding is stagnant or declining despite increased attention on and demand for outdoor recreation.
As public lands that provide outdoor recreation opportunities grow in importance, it’s worthwhile to examine how we fund and maintain those lands. Adequate funding will not in and of itself guarantee responsible stewardship of our public recreation lands. But recent trends suggest that many sources of recreation funds have either stagnated or declined in real terms, even as visitation has been increasing over the long term. An assessment of recreation-related funding sources and their trends can provide insights about different funding strategies and, ideally, help inform and improve the future of recreation on public lands.
After two decades of looting state park funding, lawmakers appropriated nearly $350 million this session, greenlit development of a new state park and gave voters a chance to maintain a long-term source.
San Solomon Springs at Balmorhea State Park. FLICKR/CHRIS MCINNIS
Texas state parks have been a convenient piggy bank for the Legislature whenever money was short elsewhere, but this session they got their due. Lawmakers put more funding than ever into state parks, and additionally are giving voters a chance to approve a constitutional amendment this November to ensure a long-term source.
The amendment, passed by more than two-thirds of the House and Senate and signed by Governor Greg Abbott this weekend, is basically a fulfillment of funding that was promised in 1993. That year, lawmakers dedicated a portion of revenue from the sales tax on sporting goods to fund state parks — 94 percent of the revenue was meant for parks and the remaining 6 percent to the state’s 22 historic sites. Since then, though, legislators have consistently appropriated far less than parks’ full share, moving the money around to other parts of the budget and leaving some of the most beautiful and popular places in the state woefully underfunded. Until 2007, state parks’ slice of the sporting goods tax was capped at $32 million. Parks have received less than half of the dedicated revenue since 1993.
LEGISLATIVE BUDGET BOARD
The new constitutional amendment, which a majority of voters must approve this November, would guarantee that parks and historic sites get their share into the future. Ultimately, it’s a matter of catching up with intent from 1993.
In addition to the constitutional amendment, lawmakers ponied up funds — the full $322 million from the sporting goods tax revenue earmarked for state parks — that will be appropriated regardless of the November election. That’s about 10 times what parks were allotted in 2007, and marks the third consecutive session that parks got their full share owed under the law.
The success for state parks this session is about as good as it gets, according to George Bristol, the founder of the Texas Coalition for Conservation and former chair of the Texas State Parks Advisory Committee and Audubon Texas. Bristol has been lobbying the Legislature for the past nine sessions.
A long line to get into Enchanted Rock State Natural Area the morning of March 17, 2018. EARL NOTTINGHAM/TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE
Advocates hope the Lege’s newfound appreciation for wide open spaces helps address issues caused by record visitor numbers (nearly 10 million in fiscal year 2017). Advance online reservations are just about the only assurance of getting in to the most popular parks during busy periods.
“We need more parks, and more parks close to our major metropolitan areas,” Bristol said.More
A combined team of researchers from Utah State University and North Carolina State University has found evidence that suggests state parks in the U.S. will become so crowded by mid-century that states will have difficulty paying for their upkeep. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their study of historical attendance records of all the state parks in the country and what they mean for the future.
State parks in the U.S. are a big deal. People from all walks of life visit parks to get away from the bustle of daily life. Combined, they greet far more visitors than the National Park system, and in general, enjoy a good reputation as a welcome respite. But that reputation might be in jeopardy if the state bureaucracies operating the parks do not take into account the rising numbers of visitors.
Brief but great video from Kansas Governor Laura Kelly on June – Great Outdoors Month. Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism.
“These trails mean life to me, physically and mentally,” hiker Jerry Brown says. We feel the same way. Yes, a lot of thought goes into building and maintaining trails but it’s really about how they breathe life back into you; that is the magic. And that’s our focus at Arkansas State Parks. #ARStateParks
Apr 09 2019
Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act makes $900 million available each year
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Cory Gardner (R-CO) led a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act, legislation to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at a level of $900 million. Manchin and Gardner were joined by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Susan Collins (R-ME), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Angus King (I-ME).
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is responsible for the acquisition of some of West Virginia’s most treasured lands. The Gauley River National Recreation Area, Monongahela National Forest and Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge are just a few examples of areas that benefited from LWCF funds. With 54 of our 55 counties having received LWCF investments at some point, the benefits of LWCF can truly be felt across the Mountain State. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan bill that will finally fund LWCF at the intended levels so we can continue to preserve, protect and invest in our public lands,” Senator Manchin said.
Kellie Lunney, E&E News reporterPublished: Tuesday, March 12, 2019
President Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget recommends essentially zeroing out the beloved Land and Water Conservation Fund — a program that he will permanently reauthorize today in a much-anticipated White House signing ceremony for the broad public lands package.
The budget request would provide roughly $8 million in new funding to the federal portion of LWCF, but it also recommends a $31 million rescission from already appropriated funds.
That translates into a proposed clawback of about $23.45 million, which ultimately means a less-than-zero administration proposal for the 54-year-old land and water conservation program in fiscal 2020.
The omnibus spending bill that Trump signed into law last month gave LWCF $435 million for fiscal 2019.
HARRISBURG — To promote a healthy start to the new year, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) officials will be joining hikers at several parks across the state as DCNR again sponsors free, guided hikes in 29 state parks on New Year’s Day as part of America’s State Parks First Day Hikes initiative in all 50 states.
“Our First Day Hikes help remind people that our state parks and forests are open for healthy outdoor adventures in all four seasons, including winter,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Dunn said. “They are a great way to make a resolution to enjoy nature and get more exercise, and keep it on the first day of the year.”
Presque Isle State Park and Jennings Environmental Education Center are offering New Year’s Eve or “Last Night” hikes for those who wish to ring in the New Year mid-hike. These easy hikes, spanning one to three miles, begin at 10:30 p.m. on December 31 and conclude around 12:30 a.m. on January 1.
“Last year, we hosted over 700 participants who hiked more than 1,793 miles in our state parks across the Pennsylvania,” Dunn said. “Whether you’re staying close to home or traveling, join us at one of Pennsylvania’s state parks on New Year’s Day!”
The annual First Day Hike on the Makapu’u Light House Trail at the Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline on O‘ahu is arguably the most unique of the nearly 1,200 hikes in America’s State Parks each New Year’s Day.
While far from the most difficult, it is one of the best attended with an estimated 700 people making the short, two-mile-roundtrip hike to an overlook, where participants can see the first sunrise of 2019.
What makes it unique is the blend of cultures, which is a hallmark of Hawai‘i.