Washington Rep. sponsors Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorization bill
A bill that would permanently OK an important national conservation tool was introduced by an Evergreen State lawmaker in that other Washington this week.
Rep. Dave Reichert, a Republican who represents eastern King and Pierce Counties, was one of 18 House members from across the U.S. and across party lines whose House Resolution 1814 would reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which otherwise expires at the end of this coming September.
Since 1965, LWCF has yielded half a billion dollars to Washington for conservation and access programs such as at key elk and waterfowl habitat on the Colockum, Skagit and Desert Wildlife Areas, according to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.
“The LWCF has played a pivotal role in preserving America’s national treasures for future generations,” Reichert said in a WWRC press release. “In Washington alone, it has helped to conserve the natural beauty of the Pacific Crest Trail, Mt. Rainier National Park, Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, and the Columbia River Gorge. These are places that attract visitors from across the country, and even from other parts of the globe. I look forward to working with my colleagues to sustain the LWCF and put it to good use in the next 50 years.”
His bill is a companion to one introduced in late March in the Senate by another federal lawmaker from Washington, but on the other side of the fence.
Senator Maria Cantwell was joined by one of Oregon’s Democratic senators, Ron Wyden, as well as Montana’s Jon Tester, in sponsoring S.890.
But their bill would not only permanently authorize LWCF, it would fully fund it too.
The money for the program comes from underwater oil and gas royalties.
Both bills have been referred to natural resource committees.
LWCF has been subject to political winds blowing through the U.S. capital in recent years. In summer 2013, a House subcommittee infamously zeroed it out, a move that was blasted by a state representative of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Ultimately, though, LWCF emerged the following winter with $306 million.
The fund could disburse up to the full $900 million annually collected from drillers operating off the continental shelf, but the balance is often used elsewhere.
That’s what the senators’ bill gets at.
Still, the former King County sheriff’s continuing support of the LWCF buoyed WWRC’s Vlad Gutman who said the organization was “incredibly grateful” to Reichert for his support of the state’s “strong outdoor economy,” which includes something like $1.6 billion spent annually by Washington’s hook-and-bullet crowd.
“Outdoor recreation supports nearly 200,000 jobs in Washington state,” Gutman noted. “It is important for Congress to secure full funding and reauthorization for the LWCF to preserve our economy and quality of life, and we’re fortunate to have strong leaders like Rep. Reichert leading the charge to protect our great outdoors.”
Public lands and acquisitions have come under unusual scrutiny over the past year, but WWRC says that if passed, Reichert’s bill would help preserve 165 acres of historic farm ground on Whidbey Island, secure conservation easements to forests around Mt. St. Helens, and acquire property near Lake Quinault to help protect one of the state’s last best intact watersheds.
For more on what LWCF has accomplished in Washington, go here.