This week brought some huge news for people who love the outdoors.
First, the Senate passed a bill to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF has been called America’s best conservation program and has helped protect public lands in all 50 states for over 50 years. It reinvests a portion of the royalties from offshore oil and gas development to protect public lands by funding new parks, trails, and access points on local, state, and national land. Earlier this year, the program expired and we thought it could be gone for good. After months of the outdoor community raising a ruckus, Congress temporarily brought the program back to life. LWCF reauthorization still has to get through a much tougher House fight, but this week’s vote to permanently reauthorize the LWCF is a huge deal.
The second big piece of news is that Sally Jewell, the Secretary of the Interior, gave a speech detailing her sweeping vision for the future of America’s public lands and waters. To secure the future of our craggy peaks, plains of wildflowers, starry alpine skies, and red rock deserts, Secretary Jewell proposed 3 major course corrections for public lands:
- Making parks relevant to all Americans through programs like Every Kid in a Park and the Find Your Park campaign. If protected public lands are going to be a priority for the next generation, we need to make sure that public lands are relevant to broader demographics and communities.
- Improving landscape-level planning to make sure that all the stakeholders on our public land work together to care of the outdoors. This approach is already paying dividends in places like Moab, Utah.
- Investing in public lands and ensuring that there is funding to maintain and protect our parks, forests, and open spaces.
One of the most important issues Secretary Jewell discussed is the need to measure the economic impact of public lands. We all know that our public lands and the experiences they provide are invaluable, but they also have a huge economic impact—by some measures, larger than the pharmaceutical and auto industries. Having better data on the outdoor economy will help to elevate our community’s profile and help keep lawmakers aware of that protecting public lands has real, quantifiable economic benefits.
Outdoor Alliance has been deeply involved in many of the initiatives that Secretary Jewell discussed, including land planning in Moab, championing Every Kid in a Park, keeping public lands from being privatized, encouraging new protective designations for important places, and measuring the outdoor economy. In a time when the very foundation of public lands is under threat, Secretary Jewell’s sweeping vision for the future is inspiring. If she is successful, her agenda will ensure that the stunning public lands that we collectively own and enjoy will be here for our futures and the futures of the next generation.
You can read the entire speech here.