U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today participated in a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on funding the National Parks system for the next century. A new member of the committee, Baldwin was appointed to the National Parks Subcommittee this week.
"I believe that prudent investments in our National Parks and public lands are crucial for economic development in local communities, essential for outdoor recreation and education and in the spirit and intention of preserving America's magnificent natural landscapes," said Baldwin.
At the hearing, Baldwin advocated for Wisconsin parks and trails and emphasized the economic and social benefits public lands play in our state. She raised concerns about recent budget cuts, including the sequester, which have impacted Wisconsin's National Parks, including St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and the Apostle Islands.
"Both St. Croix and Apostle Islands have shown that smart investments in National Parks can serve as a growth engine for local economies. But recent budget cuts have hit both of these parks hard and can have a negative cascading effect on the economy and quality of life in the local communities," Baldwin said.
Baldwin highlighted the success of parks and trails in Wisconsin and argued for increased support to these public lands. In Wisconsin, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which is managed by the state and the National Park Service, and other public lands continue to experience robust attendance. In fact, 1.25 million people experience the Ice Age Trail every year and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources reports that their annual park visitation is up 12 percent in the last decade. Twenty million people live within an hour and a half of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
This past spring in the U.S. Senate, Senator Baldwin supported legislation to strengthen the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The bipartisan measure that will assist states, including Wisconsin, in recreational planning, acquiring recreational lands and waters -- including making land available for sportsmen and women - and developing outdoor recreational facilities. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Wisconsin supports 142,000 jobs in the state. The Land and Water Conservation Fund will help support Wisconsin's tourism industry and can play an important part in the growth of the rural economy. The program is fully funded by royalties from offshore oil and gas leases at no cost to taxpayers.
"We all have a role to play in advancing the cause of environmental protection and conservation. And we know cherishing our natural resources is a Wisconsin value. I hope others will join me in our shared responsibility to protect and preserve our environment for future generations."