2004 Presidential Candidates Talk Parks: George W. Bush and John Kerry Answer Tough Questions about What They'll Do for Parks and Recreation

Article excerpt

As part of NRPA's national advocacy and voter education efforts, Parks & Recreation in cooperation with NRPA's Public Policy Division, invited each principal candidate for president of the United States to answer a set of questions designed to elicit their vision for the future of parks, recreation and public lands in America for the next four years.

Each candidate responded, in the form of policy statements and/or personal quotes, to four questions relating to parks, recreation, health, conservation and transportation. From these answers, we hope you will become more informed on these issues that matter to you locally, regionally and nationwide. For more information on what each candidate thinks regarding parks and recreation, visit their Web sites: www.johnkerry.com and www. georgebush.com.

Parks & Recreation: The Land and Water Conservation Fund-State Assistance Program is vital to state and local park and recreation systems, but has never received full funding despite the promises of this and previous administrations. Do you view this program as a priority and what are your thoughts about fully funding the LWCF state assistance program in the next four years?

George W. Bush: The president fulfills his $900 million Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funding commitment by requesting this amount from the LWCF for a number of programs that promote cooperative conservation. When the LWCF was established in 1965, the goal was to "conserve, develop and utilize outdoor recreation resources for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people." At that time, the focus was on federal acquisition and management of lands. This administration recognizes that a partnership-based approach is key to improving the health of lands and watersheds, and can complement federal land acquisitions. Conservation easements, for example, can protect wildlife habitat and safeguard natural resources while allowing private landowners to use their lands. As federal agencies try to better manage these resources, maintaining and restoring public lands in partnership with states, tribes, local communities and private citizens allows others to be good stewards of the current land inventory and increases the oversight and protection of those lands and waters.

John Kerry: I am committed to supporting communities to revitalize and expand our park and recreation areas. As president, I will ensure that ample funds are available to protect threatened land and water resources, to invest in urban parks, and to provide recreational opportunities for all Americans. I will work closely with states and municipalities to ensure that our children grow up in safe and clean communities with access to fields and parks where they can play.

P&R: The Americans Outdoors Act of 2004 would establish long-term guaranteed funding for conservation of natural resource lands, parks, urban park rehabilitation, state wildlife grants and other similar priorities. Do you support enactment of a permanent funding mechanism for conservation, parks and recreation resources such as those proposed in the Senate (American Outdoors Act) or the House (Get Outdoors Act)?

Bush: The American Outdoors Act presents an ambitious vision. It proposes mandatory spending for a stream of funding, using revenues from oil and gas development from federal offshore lands. The administration strongly supports the goals outlined in the legislation. However, it cannot support moving funding for these programs off the discretionary spending ledger, and converting it into nondiscretionary automatic spending. The total cost of the bill would be $1.425 billion annually.

A central goal of the bill is to enable local communities to carry out activities that benefit conservation and recreation. In this respect, the legislation highlights goals that the administration has pursued in recent years through a suite of cooperative conservation grants. …