We are a nation of conservationists. Whether urban or rural, eastern or western, red or blue, we value America’s lands, waters, wildlife and way of life. Polls show that 79% of Americans think that conservation is essential to the economy, and 82% believe conserving natural resources is patriotic.

Investing in these natural resources is also critical to millions of farming and ranching families, whose stewardship of the land feeds us today and tomorrow. Our shared passion for experiencing America’s natural beauty economically supports thousands of businesses and rural communities across the country. Investing in nature contributes to our collective health and welfare—and for some, spiritual enrichment. A strong environment fuels a strong economy, and in turn, a strong country.

The Coalition for Our Natural Interest recognizes that we all have a stake in making sure the right investments are made to conserve our land, air, wildlife and water. We are a broad set of stakeholders, raising our collective interest in support of conservation investment.

But this critical investment is threatened.

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Nature's Impact

Investing in nature is critical to our farming and ranching families and to thousands of businesses and rural communities supported by recreation. Investing in nature also contributes to our collective health and welfare and to our spiritual enrichment.

Small Business & Recreation

Conservation drives business and supports millions of American jobs in outdoor recreation, hunting, fishing and boating.

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Farming & Ranching

Conservation is important for millions of farmers and ranchers who provide abundant, accessible and affordable food and nutrition to America’s families and people around the world.

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Health

Clean water, air and access to natural areas reduces healthcare costs and helps build prosperous, healthy communities.

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Faith

Many communities identify culturally, and spiritually, with the landscapes and waterways that make their regions unique.

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Investment

Studies show strong public support for conservation funding. Polls demonstrate that 74% of voters oppose cuts to programs that safeguard land, air, and water. Despite a proven, strong return on investment and significant public support, conservation funding is declining. In 1977, conservation funding was close to 2.75% of the government’s total budget. Now, it is less than 1%. If we don’t take care of what we have now, it will cost more to restore our natural areas and water in the future.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is the cornerstone of conservation funding nationally, as well as for states and local governments. Launched in 1964 as a bipartisan commitment to ensure Americans have recreational access to open spaces and that the country protects water resources, cultural heritage, and natural areas, it relies on revenues from offshore oil and gas development for conservation (as opposed to taxes). The majority (60%) of LWCF funds go to states as matching grants for outdoor recreation planning, land acquisition, and park facility development. LWCF uses 40% of its funds to support everything from national parks to working forests and neighborhood playgrounds across the country. Since 1964, LWCF has directed $4.1 billion (matched with existing grants to total $8.2 billion) in 40,400 grants to state and local governments. Funding for LWCF, which uses no taxpayer dollars, must be appropriated by Congress each year, and there is a major backlog in eligible projects.

Other federal programs also provide additional conservation funding to:

  • Protect and maintain federal public lands, including the country’s national parks;
  • Conserve and support stewardship of privately owned farms, ranches, and working forests; and,
  • Improve Americans’ access to outdoor recreation opportunities by expanding access to close-to-home parks, trails, and open space.

These conservation programs include ones managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program.

Legislation such as the Farm Bill is incredibly important for improving the quality of life and economic vitality of our rural communities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also has programs that finance conservation practices and technical assistance as well as voluntary conservation easements. The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program has worked with landowners for 25 years to protect 4.4 million acres of wetlands and agricultural lands. The USDA’s conservation programs also provide family farmers and ranchers with technical assistance and funding for stewardship practices that help save energy, benefit soil and water quality, and protect wetlands and wildlife habitat.

Various laws and agencies protect the air we breathe and the water we drink. The Clean Water Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to develop criteria for water quality that meet the needs of human health and our natural environment. The Clean Air Act controls air pollution. The Water Resources Development Act helps support various aspects of water resources, such as environmental, structural, navigational, flood protection, hydrology and more.

Protected natural areas and conserved land help provide clean drinking water, improve air quality, reduce extreme heat, and reduce the impacts of flooding. Green space helps prevent runoff and erosion and filters pollutants from water, and forested watersheds are especially effective at protecting water quality. Air pollution causes approximately 200,000 premature deaths each year in the U.S.

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We all have a stake in making sure the right investments are made to conserve our land, air, wildlife and water – contact us to stay up to date and learn how you can get involved in these important issues.

© 2018 The Nature Conservancy