Secretary Jewell Visits Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Calls for Full-Funding, Reauthorization of Landmark Recreation, Conservation Program

Jewell Highlights Fund as One of Most Effective Tools for Conservation, Expanding Outdoor Recreation Opportunities

Last edited 09/29/2021

SANDY SPRINGS, GA – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell called on Congress today to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as she joined state and local conservation leaders and groups at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Secretary Jewell was in Georgia today to highlight the benefits of LWCF to support outdoor recreation opportunities and preserve America's treasured landscapes. The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area was created with support from the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1979 and has benefited from additional LWCF funds to expand and further protect it over the years.

Today's visit is part of a two-day series of events to celebrate the success of the LWCF during its 50 year anniversary and underscore the importance of LWCF as one of the nation's most effective tools for preserving and protecting rivers, lakes and other water resources, to expand the interpretation of historic and cultural sites, and to conserve natural landscapes for public outdoor recreation use and enjoyment across the country.

“For more than 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has made it possible for the federal government and communities across the country to work in partnership to build and expand parks and other recreational facilities, hiking and biking trails, and to conserve pristine areas like this beautiful stretch of the Chattahoochee River,” Jewell said. “All of this has been done by investing a small portion of revenues from oil and gas development in federal offshore waters into projects that benefit all Americans - in essence, putting back into the land part of what we have taken from it. I ask Congress for their support for full-funding and reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund which has had such an important economic impact on communities across Georgia.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established by Congress in 1964 to ensure access to outdoor recreation resources for present and future generations, and to provide money to federal, state and local governments to purchase land, water and wetlands for the benefit of all Americans. Over the course of the Funds existence, it has reinvested a small portion of revenues from federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf in over 40,000 local conservation and outdoor recreation projects that protect our nation's land, water and wildlife heritage.

Only once in the past 50 years has Congress appropriated Land and Water Conservation Fund funding at the full authorized level of $900 million. The program is set to expire this year without action from Congress. President Obama has proposed to fully and permanently fund the program.

“As a former county parks director and now administrator of the LWCF program for our beautiful state, I can attest to the positive ‘neighborhood to back county' impacts that these funds have had on Georgia and 91% of its local communities,” said Becky Kelley, Director of the Recreation and Historic Sites Division of Georgia State Parks & the Georgia State LWCF Liaison Officer. “Continued and even more robust funding to support our state's effort to protect our natural and cultural resources and engage our millions of residents and visitors in positive outdoor recreation opportunities is vitally important.”

During her visit to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Secretary Jewell and others toured a more than 20-acre tract of land known as Bowman's Island West, which includes three tracts of land stretching several miles along the western bank of the Chattahoochee. These land tracts have been separately offered by private landowners for addition to the National Recreation Area using funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and The Trust for Public Land. Acquiring these tracts of land would better connect the northern boundary of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, provide protection for a critical watershed along the most pristine portion of the river and increase the opportunity for trail connections along the west side of the river.

“Americans find common cause with the protection of our natural areas, and without a strong Land and Water Conservation Fund, we cannot protect lands like Bowman's Island West, which would improve public recreational access to the Chattahoochee River,” said Ray Christman, Senior Vice President, The Trust for Public Land. “We are grateful for Secretary Jewell's leadership on this critical issue, and to Georgia's congressional delegation for their continued support for LWCF.”

“Public parklands along the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area are essential for protecting our aquatic and terrestrial natural resources for the region,” said Chris Scalley, Guide Company Owner, River Through Atlanta. “When local communities can connect with nature their quality of life is enhanced immeasurably. Whether hiking your favorite trail or wading into a blue ribbon trout stream to fly fish the aesthetic value of your park experience is priceless."”

“Whether a hiking trail, boat ramp or ball field, each of these projects plays an important role in improving the health and vitality of people, especially those who live close to urban areas, as well as protecting natural areas for future generations of Americans to enjoy,” Jewell said. “Congress needs to fulfill the promise made to the American people by enacting full and permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”

Jewell emphasized that Land and Water Conservation Fund grants boost local economies and support jobs in the outdoor recreation and tourism industries. A recent analysis of the Land and Water Conservation Fund found that every $1 invested in land acquisition generated a $4 return on the investment for communities.

In Metropolitan Atlanta, for example, visitors to Chattahoochee National Recreation Area last year spent over $123 million and supported 1,723 jobs.

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