SACRAMENTO, 18 August 2009 — Yesterday the California Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously passed AB 1115, authored by Assemblymember Felipe Fuentes, allowing CA state conservancies to apply for federal Land and Water Conservation Funds (LWCF) for the first time. The bill has enjoyed bi-partisan support both on the floor of the Assembly and in committee. Next, AB 1115 goes to the Senate floor for a vote.
LWCF funds are administered by the National Parks Service and made available through matching grants to states for recreation planning, acquisition of lands and waters, and facility development. Currently in California, LWCF funds are apportioned by statute, 60% to local governmental agency projects, and 40% to state agency projects. Of the 40% allocated to state agencies, the vast majority is allocated to Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) and Department of Fish and Game (DFG) projects. Existing law allows only the State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) to compete for grants and funds from this revenue source, not any of the other state conservancies.
This bill would eliminate the statutorily-set allocations of LWCF monies to various state agencies and instead require DPR to distribute the monies for state agencies through a competitive grant program. DPR, DFG, Department of Boats & Waterways (DBW), the Wildlife Conservation Board, Department of Water Resources, and all state conservancies (not just the Coastal Conservancy) would be eligible.
Funding under LWCF for state assistance programs has been declining in recent years, though there is some indication that these funds will be increased by Congress in coming years. In FY 2008, Congress appropriated $23.1 million for the state assistance LWCF program, with California receiving $1.96 million. In 2006 legislation was enacted which ensures that regular LWCF appropriations will be supplemented by proceeds from certain oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. In the early years, LWCF proceeds from these Gulf leases are expected to be quite modest.
The bill was slightly amended on the Senate side (to allow DBW to continue to be eligible for funds), so after its passage on the Senate floor it will need to go back to the Assembly for concurrence before being brought to the Governor for his signature.
The bill has no opposition, and is supported by The Sierra Fund, the California Council of Land Trusts, The Nature Conservancy, California Association of Local Conservation Corps, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Los Angeles Conservation Corps and TreePeople.