As Congress threatens to slash conservation funding, Bay Staters stand up for their parks and beaches

Media Contacts

Environment Massachusetts

Today, Environment Massachusetts presented a petition signed by 20,800 Bay Staters, calling for full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the country’s most successful parks and open space program that helps protect beaches, forests, and local parks and playgrounds in Massachusetts and across the nation.

Recently, a Congressional committee voted to slash LWCF funding to one-sixth its intended level, and in 2015, the program could expire altogether, leaving some of Massachusetts’ best places vulnerable to pollution and development, and with fewer resources to maintain park facilities.  The Boston Common, the Cape Cod National Seashore, and the Appalachian Trail are among the parks that have all been protected though LWCF funding.

“Our parks are a big part of what makes living in Massachusetts so great,” said Ben Hellerstein, field organizer for Environment Massachusetts. “For 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has protected our most treasured landscapes and provided essential support for local parks and neighborhood playgrounds across the state. Our message is clear: Bay Staters want to see their parks protected.”

Since 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has contributed more than $200 million to protect parks and open space in Massachusetts with dedicated revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling. But Congress has routinely raided the fund to send that money elsewhere.

That’s why Environment Massachusetts has gathered 20,800 petitions and had 62,000 conversations with people around the state about the importance of preserving the LWCF to protect all our open spaces, from the iconic Charles River to Franklin Park.

“Franklin Park is well-loved by the diverse residents of its surrounding neighborhoods, but the park has crumbling pathways, trees in dire need of maintenance, and beautiful historic ruins that will disappear without more attention,” said Christine Poff, executive director of the Franklin Park Coalition.

“Boston Common and Public Garden are some of the oldest public spaces in the United States, the sites for some of our most treasured vistas and community gatherings, and two of the most heavily used parks in Boston,” said Elizabeth Vizza, executive director of Friends of the Public Garden. “Without adequate funding from local, state, and federal government, the Common, the Public Garden, and all of our parks would suffer.”

Last year, the LWCF received only $306 million in funding, and the House Appropriations Committee recently passed a bill that would fund the program at $152 million for the upcoming year. These funding cuts come as Massachusetts communities continue to lose open space to development at a rapid rate. According to a recent report from MassAudubon, Massachusetts lost approximately 38,000 acres of forest and undeveloped land between 2005 and 2013—equivalent to 13 acres a day.

“As a youth development organization that connects inner-city children and teenagers from all parts of Boston with opportunities to experience the great outdoors, we understand the importance of protecting our parks and public lands,” said Bryan Van Dorpe, executive director of Youth Enrichment Services. “From Bash Bish Falls in the Berkshires to the banks of the Charles River, Massachusetts’ parks help people of all ages and backgrounds to develop healthy habits, learn valuable life skills, and gain an appreciation for the beauty of our natural environment.”

In Massachusetts, outdoor recreation generates $10 billion in economic activity every year and supports 90,000 jobs.

“Today, with 20,800 of our fellow Bay Staters behind us, we’re asking our members of Congress to do everything in their power to ensure that the Land and Water Conservation Fund is fully funded, next year and forever,” said Hellerstein.