The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed boasts a diverse group of member organizations involved in all areas of Watershed protection and preservation. This rich blend of local, state, regional, and national expertise is vital to our advocacy for the health and well being of the Delaware River, its many tributaries, and the millions of acres of surrounding forests, wetlands and scenic wild places.
While we benefit from the individual strengths and talents of our members, in turn we enhance their ability to make a difference by leveraging their collective voices and know-how for greater impact. By joining forces around shared concerns, we aim to better safeguard the Delaware River Watershed and its remarkable resources for future generations to enjoy.
The Coalition establishes its advocacy agenda through a priority nomination and adoption process open to all members. Currently, the Coalition is focusing its efforts on the following policy priorities:
Delaware River Basin Restoration Program Funding
Most watersheds in the U.S. enjoy a coordinated program that receives dedicated federal funding to protect all their resources. The Delaware River Basin Conservation Act (DRBCA) established the opportunity for such funding to flow to our region through the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program. This program is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore and preserve wetlands, forests and streams; improve water quality; enhance recreation; and, reduce flooding. The program includes a competitive grant and technical assistance component to support local, on-the-ground conservation projects sponsored by non-profits and other groups. See the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's fact sheet on the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program for more information.
Congress affirmed the importance of conservation in the Delaware River Watershed when it passed the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act with strong bi-partisan support and leadership in December 2016. It is incumbent on Congress to follow through on its intent when it authorized the program just last year to provide robust funding to implement the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program and ensure resources are dedicated to local, on-the-ground restoration projects in the watershed.
LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a federal program that supports voluntary conservation on private land and the protection of federal public lands and waters, including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas. The LWCF State Grants program provides matching grants to state and tribal governments for the acquisition and development of public parks and other outdoor recreation sites. The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund provides grants to states and territories to work with private landowners, conservation organizations, and other partners to protect and conserve the habitat of threatened and endangered species. The Forest Legacy Program provides grants through state partners to protect environmentally sensitive forest lands while maintaining private ownership and working forests.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund was reauthorized by Congress for a three-year period in December 2015, however, Congress has continued to provide only half of its funding since 2015. Additionally, the program is threatened under the Trump Administration's budget FY 2018 proposal, which includes a 12% cut to federal land protection programs under the Department of Interior, which could include the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Nevertheless, the Land and Water Conservation Fund continues to be recognized as a critical program by a wide range of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. A bi-partisan letter supporting funding for the program included signatures from 205 members of the House of Representatives in March 2017, and legislation to permanently reauthorize the program currently has over 130 co-sponsors in the House.
The Coalition supports permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund as well as full funding for this vital conservation program.
Photograph by Smallbones via Wikimedia Commons.