Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) 50th Anniversary Event

Land and Water Conservation Fund 50th Anniversary Event

May 22, 2015 Remarks by Joel Dunn, President & CEO, Chesapeake Conservancy (As Prepared for Delivery)

Thank you, Mark, for being such a strong advocate for land conservation.  Maryland’s Program Open Space, which you run, is a model for the nation. It is an honor to join all of you here today as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  Secretary Jewell, Democratic Whip Hoyer, Director Kornze, and Secretary Belton thank you for your conservation leadership. For those of you that don’t know me, I am a passionate guy.  I love my family, my country and the Chesapeake’s rivers, wildlife and history. Seeing an osprey catch a fish, watching a monarch butterfly land on a milkweed, exploring shipwrecks by kayak or tracing the outline of an ancient petroglyph ignites my sense of wonder and imagination.  I thrive on the rhythms of this estuary and the magic of this place. Your participation today indicates that you share some of these feelings. I suspect that you, like me, are unwilling to deprive future generations of their right to clear air, clean water, and wild places – all vital for health, happiness and fuel for the soul. We share a common bond — a desire to achieve a state of harmony between people and the land.  This cause is important, worthwhile and it is right.  We are fighting to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of our Chesapeake Bay watershed. The ancient roots of these sentiments and our movement stretch back 10,000 years to an American Indian culture that understood then and understands now that the health of the earth dictates the health of our society. My friends in the American Indian community, several of which are here today from the Piscataway Conoy Tribes, have a philosophy of thinking seven generations ahead.  When thinking 140 years into the future, conservation is an obvious conclusion.  This takes on added meaning for me now that I have a one-week-old daughter. The Chesapeake Conservancy prides itself on being a catalyst for conservation.  We have formal partnerships with the National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service and MD DNR among others to advance conservation and access goals for the watershed. Born from the establishment of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail – which runs along this shore — we have worked with our Federal, State and nonprofit partners to protect land and create public access along the Great Rivers of the Chesapeake. The Trail acts as a landscape scale framework throughout the Bay watershed, linking NPS, USFWS, BLM and USFS lands with State and local parks and privately protected lands. Over the last half century, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has protected some our most wonderful places in Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay along the Trail, like Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and Nanjemoy Natural Resource Management Area. This place – managed by our friends at the Bureau of Land Management and purchased with Land and Water Conservation Fund money — is a great launching site to explore the John Smith Trail, the proposed Mallows Bay National Marine Sanctuary, or learn about the deep roots of American Indian history. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the only federal program dedicated to the continued conservation and access to these magical places.  It is a hugely popular, successful, bipartisan program. With 98% of the Chesapeake’s shoreline being privately owned, the parks and recreation areas that were created with LWCF, or state open space funds, are the only reasons I can connect with the resource.  They are also a major reason why I have committed my career to conserving and restoring this national treasure. Over the course of the last several years, the Chesapeake Conservancy has worked with the federal land management agencies to coordinate a major collaborative conservation initiative called the Rivers of the Chesapeake LWCF initiative. Our goal is to protect some of the most important cultural, natural or historic resources remaining in the region – and link together federal, state, local and private protected lands into corridors for wildlife and recreation. As a lead nonprofit partner, I had the privilege of working with many of you as we put it together. And, we’re tremendously grateful that the President and Sally Jewell included over $33 million for the Rivers of the Chesapeake proposal, which was one of eight collaborative landscapes included in the budget. Our initiative boasts the support of 4 governors, 9 US Senators, 17 Members of the House, 6 American Indian Tribes, 34 nonprofits and numerous local elected officials, including Maryland Senate President Mike Miller.  All of those people agree that LWCF funds are desperately needed here and now. We’ve got a population in this region approaching 18 million and climbing, and we’re losing tens of thousands of acres of open space each year. We are literally racing against the tide. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Land and Water Conservation Fund is one of the most effective tools to maintain a world that will allow future generations to thrive – and experience the Chesapeake how we have. Of course we join you Secretary Jewell and Congressman Hoyer, in echoing President Obama’s call for full, permanent funding in his proposed budget and reauthorization. Without LWCF, we will not have the critical funding to protect places like this for future generations – like my baby daughter Harper.