Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

February 2021

Organizations Lodge Opposition to Last-Minute LWCF Changes

Various organizations have registered their vigorous opposition to last-minute changes by the outgoing Trump Administration to the Land and Water Conservation Fund's (LWCF) State Assistance Program, including essentially ending the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program. The LWCF Coalition, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and the City Parks Alliance all registered their opposition and insisted that these changes be reversed.

"On their way out the door, DOI Secretary David Bernhardt and the Trump Administration are again trying to rewrite the rules for LWCF and erode the very processes Congress passed into law to ensure the program's success," said Drew McConville, senior managing director of government relations at The Wilderness Society and a spokesperson for the LWCF Coalition. "This last-ditch effort misuses LWCF funds, patently violates LWCF's underlying statutes as well as the FY 2021 appropriations law, and undermines conservation and recreation projects across the country.

"Particularly objectionable is the blatant attempt to simply erase the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program and siphon away funding that Congress specifically directed to provide equitable and just park access to underserved communities who need it most."

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a conservation program that protects park, wildlife refuges and recreation areas at the federal, state and local levels. For 55 years it has provided critical funding for land and water conservation projects, recreational construction and activities, and the continued historic preservation of the nation's iconic landmarks. It does all of this without using any taxpayer dollars—it is funded using a small portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas royalty payments.

The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP), a program within LWCF, directs funds specifically to underserved urban communities for new outdoor recreation spaces and renovations to existing parks and recreation centers. The ORLP is a nationally competitive grant program started in 2014 that delivers funding to urban areas—jurisdictions of at least 50,000 people—with priority given to projects located in economically disadvantaged areas and lacking in outdoor recreation opportunities. These awards help urban communities address outdoor recreation deficits by supporting projects in cities and densely populated urbanized areas that create new outdoor recreation spaces, reinvigorate existing parks and form connections between people and the outdoors.

"City Parks Alliance urges the new Biden administration to immediately revoke the Interior Secretarial Order 3388, including the imposition of new Secretary priorities to the State Assistance formula grants and nationally competitive grants. These changes are not consistent with the purposes or understanding under which Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act," said Catherine Nagel, executive director of the City Parks Alliance.

"Additionally," she added, "the $150 million Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) … reprioritizes the competitive program purposes from the congressionally approved intent of the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program, a National Park Service program to connect people with parks and the outdoors, especially economically disadvantaged communities that lack recreational opportunities. This is not the time to be reallocating money away from projects in underserved communities. We respectfully ask the new administration to amend the NOFO to restore the original criteria of the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program."

Kristine Stratton, president and CEO of NRPA, said, "This decision takes resources away from communities most in need of parks—especially communities of color and low-income communities. The ORLP program was created to ensure that adequate resources from the LWCF were distributed to urban areas to ensure everyone has access to a local park. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has shown, our parks and green spaces play a vital role in the physical, social and economic well-being of our communities. Since its creation in 2014, the ORLP has funded innovative parks in underinvested communities to ensure that all people can experience the physical, mental and social benefits of nature."

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