Wednesday, August 12, 2009

National Capital Regional Land Conservation Act

There is an exciting bill in Congress that would create a funding source to help acquire more parkland in the greater Washington Metropolitan Area. Bill Dickinson (photo above), who is a Board Member and past Chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority came up with the idea for this legislation when he was researching some of the funding sources that help create parks in this are in the first half of the 20th Century.

Below is some additional information written by Bill Dickinson on this bill.

National Capital Region Land Conservation Actamendment to the
Capper Cramton Act of 1930 (Chapter 354; 46 Stat.482)
HR 2986 (Sponsor - Moran with Norton, Wolf, Wittman, Connolly, Hoyer, Van Hollen, and Edwards as co-sponsors – introduced June 19, 2009 – referred to the House Committee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands )
S 1525 (Sponsor - Cardin with Mikulski, Webb and Warner as co-sponsors – introduced July 28, 2009 – referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resouces)

“The increasing tempo of urbanization and growth is already depriving many Americans of the right to live in decent surroundings. More of our people are crowded into cities and cut off from nature. Cities themselves reach out into the countryside, destroying streams and meadows as they go…people move out from the city to get closer to nature only to find that nature has moved farther from them ….The Potomac River, rich in history and memory should serve as a model of scenic and recreational values for the entire nation” - President LB Johnson – Message to Congress – 2/8/1965


Encourage multi-State and multi government long range cooperative regional planning identifying particular lands in the National Capital Region (“NCR” as defined by the US Census Bureau) to be conserved for a variety of enumerated environmental, cultural, historic and recreational purposes.
Stimulate open space land conservation acquisition and leverage funding by State, regional, and local governments through a Federal cost share grant program designed for the unique requirements of the NCR. Encourage donations, bargain sales, etc. for land conservation purposes.
Revive the partnership between Federal, State, regional and local park, land conservation, planning, environmental agencies and stakeholder groups to focus on land conservation and green open space needs in the region. This process, established under the Capper Cramton Act of 1930 and led by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) for almost four decades, was disrupted in 1966 when the National Capital Planning Council was abolished by executive order. NCPC’s responsibilities to represent the Federal interests in the region’s planning and development remain. The existing elements of the Capper Cramton Act – last amended in 1958- would be unaltered by the NCRLCA.


The National Capital Region (NCR) includes the District of Columbia, Calvert, Montgomery, Prince Georges, St. Mary’s, Charles, and Frederick Counties, MD, Jefferson County in WVA, Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Clarke, Warren, Stafford, Fauquier, and Spotsylvania Counties, VA and all the cities contained within those geographic areas. It also includes the City of Alexandria.
NCR will expand as the Bureau of the Census periodically redefines the Washington DC statistical metropolitan area.
Virtually the entire region is within the Potomac River watershed, an area of national concern given the national status of the Potomac River and the fact that it is one of the primary pollution sources flowing into the Chesapeake Bay.


Increasing public demand for natural area land conservation, green infrastructure and outdoor recreation given the NCR population which is now about 5.3M and expected to grow an additional 3 M by 2030.
The urban planners of the late 19th and early 20th century understood that protecting green open space is most efficiently accomplished by aggressive forward looking regional planning and setting aside by zoning, easement or acquisition environmentally important lands that should be conserved. Between 1990 and now, the regions population grew by 10% and the level of impervious surface grew by 40%.
The outlying counties such as Stafford, Calvert or Jefferson, where much new growth is being experienced, are woefully underserved with publicly protected and accessible green space.
· Opportunities for land conservation acquisition in the NCR region remain including property along the Potomac River and its tributaries, mountain ridgelines, farmlands on which conservation easements agreements are near to expiration, brownfields and old industrial properties.


Authorization of appropriations of up to $50M/year for 5 years from date of enactment for up to 50-50 cost share with State, regional and local land conservation agencies for purposes enumerated in the act.
Funding request would be desired via a line item request in the President’s annual budget for USDI.
In 1930, the Capper Cramton Act authorized $9 M for land acquisition in MD and VA and $16M in DC. The 1958 amendment increased the authorization primarily for the George Washington Parkway extension.
The NCRLCA funding is not anticipated to be offset from Land and Water Conservation Act appropriations given those funds are allocated to the States under a defined formula, awarded to eligible applicants by the States to localities based on the State’s Outdoor Plan priorities and can provide for park facility improvements. NCRLCA would be only for land acquisition.
· A portion of appropriated funds may be used for to covered States, local governments and nonprofit organizations for planning and evaluating acquisition proposals.

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