“We’re defined by what we leave behind and this program has done a better job of protecting those places that make America, America than any other thing in our government’s history.”

Collin O’Mara, National Wildlife Federation President and CEO in testimony before Congress on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, June 25th. 

More than five decades ago, Congress created the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to safeguard America’s beautiful landscapes, protect wildlife and encourage Americans to get outside and connect with nature.  Without question, it has been this nation’s most successful conservation program. It has helped foster and maintain local, state and national parks, create access for hunters and anglers, improve waterways, build hiking and biking trails and much more in every county in America.  It has done so without using a single dime of taxpayer money since it is funded by using offshore oil revenues.

In March, Congress passed an overwhelmingly bipartisan public lands package that reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  “It took public lands to bring divided government together,” said Senator Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, told the New York Times.

Now it’s time to take the next step – to fully and permanently fund LWCF.  For far too long, the program has not gotten the $900 million which it is entitled to receive. In fact, just twice in its history has the program received full funding. And yet the need for conservation continues to rise.

On the heels of the successful public lands package, momentum continues to build toward another resounding bipartisan success for our public lands by fixing the funding problem.

The permanent funding bills in the House and Senate have:

188 Co-Sponsors in the House, and counting

48 Co-Sponsors in the Senate, and counting.

And all across the country, people are calling for funding this vital American program. Here’s a small example:

LA Times: “The Land and Water Conservation Fund is perhaps the least widely known, but by no means the least important, of six essential environmental programs created by Congress in the 1960s, largely under the leadership of Stewart Udall, who served as Interior secretary under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Ironically, the other five pieces of legislation — the Wilderness Act, the Water Quality Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act — may be better known because they have been, at various times, more controversial.”

San Francisco Chronicle:  “The fund is vital money supply that has provided $16.7 billion since its inception in 1964. The funds aren’t a burden on taxpayers since the dollars flow from royalties on oil and gas drilling in federal waters. The idea was to balance fossil fuel extraction with conservation improvements and land buys that expanded parks and historic sites.”

Missoulian, “It’s time to fully fund this vital program…I have lost count of the number of incredible summer afternoons I have spent along the Blackfoot, using access sites all the way from Angelvine to Cedar Meadow. I have the LWCF program to thank for that. Then there are huge swaths of wildlife habitat that have been added to our national forests because of LWCF — places we go hunting, camping and berry picking.” 

Steamboat Springs Pilot, Colorado: “Ensuring full and dedicated funding for LWCF is a responsible investment. Through its protection of outdoor places and improving access to recreation, the Land and Water Conservation Fund improves the health and economic well-being of all Americans. The Colorado delegation should stand up for what is important to our community, Colorado and the nation and fully fund LWCF.” 

Arizona Republic, “Like to hike and fish in Arizona? Without this fund, our way of life is at risk. A recent poll found that the overwhelming majority of Western voters (83%) want Congress to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.” 

Star News, Elk River Minnesota:  “The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was reauthorized earlier this year with bipartisan support — but that isn’t enough to protect the outdoor places we all know and love. Without full funding for the program, protections and investments in our nation’s public lands and access to outdoor spaces will continue to lag behind.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune:  “Ensuring that the Land and Water Conservation Fund can reach its full potential is the best way to make sure that Minnesota’s beautiful outdoor treasures will be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Bakersfield Californian “Currently, the annual allocation, which doesn’t cost taxpayers and is capped at $900 million, must be authorized by Congress. However, they have managed to fully-fund LWCF only twice in its 54-year history. This is why I, along with the majority of Americans, want to see LWCF receive permanent and dedicated funding.”

Charleston Post & Courier:“It is a critical investment not only in our quality of life and the continued protection of our public lands for future generations, but in the American economy.”

Seattle Times:  “If you have ever hiked a trail to cascading waterfalls in our national parks, fished for trout or steelhead in our Northwest rivers, or enjoyed your city parks, you are likely a beneficiary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”

Forbes:  “This bill actually provides the funding that Congress wanted appropriated to the program when it was created back in 1964. What would be the point of a fund that doesn’t have funding?”

The Hill: “Full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund is critical to the expansion of recreational opportunities so important to the growth and culture of entrepreneurial, job-creating companies in our country. We urge congressional leaders, in the strongest possible terms, to work together to ensure that LWCF is fully funded this year and every year moving forward.

Colorado Sun: “Over 150 county commissioners, mayors, city, and town council members representing 46 communities from all 11 Western states recently sent a letter to their congressional delegations urging them to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).”

Sun Journal, Maine:Veterans know deeply that, in taking care of our outdoor places, they will take care of us.  Seen in this way, fully funding LWCF is an investment in the health and well-being of the American people.”

We’ll leave the final words to the two sponsors of the bills:

Permanent funding is the next step Congress must take after our historic achievement earlier this year to permanently reauthorize the LWCF program,” said Senator Joe Manchin.

“This bill is the epitome of everything it means to work together in a bipartisan way to get things done here in Congress. It is an example of something that we CAN agree on. Together with Rep. Fitzpatrick, Chair Grijalva, and many others, we figured out a way to get something done that means something, that won’t cost a single taxpayer dollar, and that protects our parks and lands,” said Rep. Jeff Van Drew.

Published: August 29, 2019