WASHINGTON - Maite Arce, President and CEO of the Hispanic Access Foundation, released the following statement in response to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke's testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies regarding President Trump's FY19 budget proposal, which includes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) that is set to expire in September if Congress does not reauthorize it.
"President Trump's budget proposal provides major cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and jeopardizes one of our nation's greatest tools for providing access to the outdoors, supporting local park and recreation projects and protecting our nation's public lands.
"LWCF began more than 50 years ago as a bipartisan promise instrumental in creating, protecting and providing access to public lands not just for the Latino community, but also for everyone across the nation - and at no cost to taxpayers. Its funding has touched nearly every county in the country and has been one of the most critical avenues in providing access to the outdoors for Latino and low-income families.
"Without this program's existence, current and future protected lands and water sources would be left without the financial resources to remain protected. For local economies benefitting from a consistent influx of visitors, and local Latino workers and students, this means putting their tourism industry's stability at risk by opening parks, wildlife refuges, and forests for commercial development. This outcome will not only drastically change the availability of these treasures for future generations, but also sever the historical and cultural ties we maintain with these resources.
"LWCF warrants full funding - it's $900 million cap represents just .08 percent of the President's total budget and it's paid through offshore drilling royalties - and deserves for Congress, finally making good on the bipartisan promise, to permanently reauthorize it."
For over half a century, LWCF has served to protect America's greatest treasures: From national parks of outstanding beauty such as the Grand Canyon and Grand Teton, to historic sites embodying our nation's past such as the San Antonio Missions, and the Gettysburg Battlefield. LWCF has successfully safeguarded countless acres of natural resources, greatly enhanced access to public lands, preserved our historical legacy, and even supported local economies by boosting tourism. To this day, LWCF has helped protect more than 100 national battlefields in 42 states, supported over 41,000 parks and recreation projects across the country, in addition to protecting more than 2.2 million acres of national parks important to the Latino community.