Today, House lawmakers introduced a bill to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
LWCF provides funding for local, state, and national parks and public lands. Since its inception, it’s helped to create new places to get outside in all 50 states, protecting iconic places, among them the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Garden of the Gods in Colorado, the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, Cuyahoga National Park in Ohio, Bozeman Pass in Montana, Olympic National Park in Washington, and Castle Crags State Park in California. We’ve written about LWCF many times before – it’s one of the most important conservation programs that’s protecting places and creating new trails and outdoor opportunities.
One of the biggest victories of last spring’s public lands package, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, was the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which had expired in September 2015 and again in 2018. However, this reauthorization did not come with any guaranteed funding, meaning that there will be a yearly wrestling match to try to get Congress to appropriate funding to the program. LWCF is funded by offshore oil and gas royalties, and it’s authorized for up to $900 million annually, but Congress has routinely underfunded the program by 50 percent or more.
This new bill, H.R.3195, which was introduced in the House by Reps. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) and Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and is a companion bill to S.1081, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act, which was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Manchin (D-WV), Gardner (R-CO), Cantwell (D-WA), and Burr (R-NC), and will ensure that LWCF receives the full $900 million that it’s authorized to spend each year. These bills honor the original promise of the program and provide stable funding at a time when resources for parks and public lands are stagnant at best. Investments in public lands are crucial, not only because they provide resources to help get more people outside close to home and in iconic destinations, but also because they improve local economies. The Trust for Public Lands recently found that every dollar invested in LWCF returned $4 in economic value (source).
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has benefitted nearly all Americans who like to get outside, protecting some of my favorite places to paddle, like the Gauley River in West Virginia and the White Salmon in Washington. Building on the momentum of the public lands package, the bipartisan Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act honors the original promise of the program by providing permanent funding to create new parks, trails, and public lands. At a time when resources for public lands are in decline, this bill provides stable funding that is critically needed for recreation and conservation projects,” said Adam Cramer, Executive Director of Outdoor Alliance.
Update 6/19: the House Natural Resources passed the bill 21-13, and we expect the Senate to hold a hearing next week. You can read our complete testimony by clicking on the letter at right.
You can help! You can use the tool below to write your lawmaker and tell them you support permanent funding for LWCF.