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WASHINGTON, DC — Moments ago, Secretary David Bernhardt announced that the Interior Department would issue new orders that will impose unnecessary, top-down requirements that will potentially delay the National Park Service’s ability to address its over $5 billion backlog of land acquisition needs.

In reaction to the announcement, Phil Francis, Chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, explained:

“By large, bipartisan margins, Congress voted to pass the Great American Outdoors Act and fully fund the highly popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Interior Sec. David Bernhardt’s latest efforts to sabotage the successful implementation of LWCF by not adequately addressing the National Park Service’s (NPS) land acquisition backlog – and adding additional layers of bureaucracy – is an unconscionable violation of Congress’ intent.

“Full funding for LWCF was not only meant to improve access to parks, hiking trails, hunting and fishing, and recreational facilities. There are criteria that are equally or more important than just providing access when determining funding. LWCF is also meant to benefit communities across the nation by preserving and protecting our national parks and public lands.

Congress was clear and explicit about what it wanted from the Department of the Interior – specifically calling for 40% of LWCF funds to go to federal land protection that can be used to help parks begin to meet their land acquisition needs. The NPS has been underfunded for years, creating an over $5 billion backlog in land acquisition. Our parks protects critical watersheds, viewsheds, and ecosystems. If these lands not acquired soon, the opportunities could be lost forever.

This latest order is unacceptable and demonstrates bad faith on the part of Secretary Bernhardt. And we encourage Congress to finish its work on FY21 LWCF spending without regard to DOI’s inappropriate attempt to rewrite this incredibly popular and successful program.”

Last week, the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks submitted a FOIA request for the National Park Service list(s) of properties to be purchased using the Land and Water Conservation Fund for FY 2021 and beyond.