Since President John F. Kennedy proposed legislation to create the Land and Water Conservation Fund 50 years ago, it has been our nation’s most successful tool to protect national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and historic sites.
LWCF takes a portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas leasing to fund onshore conservation. Despite the fact that it requires no taxpayer dollars, only a fraction of the funds have ever been appropriated for their intended purpose: ensuring all Americans have access to the great outdoors.
Congressional appropriators have consistently diverted funding, leaving $17 billion of projects unfunded, including projects in Washington state.
A recreation and conservation toolbox
Throughout its history, LWCF has evolved to provide diverse, lasting benefits to our communities based on:
Opportunities for outdoor experiences from sports fields and playgrounds to boat launches and backcountry areas. Recently, a funding category has been added to improve access to public lands for hunters and anglers.
Voluntary conservation agreements that support working farms, forests and ranches to protect local jobs and wildlife habitat.
Protection of water resources, including drinking water, and maintenance of healthy forests to reduce risk of forest fire.
President backs LWCF
President Obama’s budget offers a strong commitment to LWCF, with $600 million for the program in FY 2014 and a commitment to give full, dedicated funding at $900 million by FY 2015. This commitment hopefully indicates that this program will be renewed beyond its current expiration date in 2015.
This money would fund such projects as protecting land in the Central Cascades for outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat and forest management; preserving the Lewis and Clark National Scenic Trail where it runs through Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge; and sustain working forests on the Olympic Penninsula and in the Klickitat Canyon.
Washington Delegation steps up
A House letter lead by Congressman Dave Reichert and seven of his colleagues supporting LWCF received a record 158 signatures, including Representatives Suzan DelBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Adam Smith, Jim McDermott, and Denny Heck. Senator Maria Cantwell joined a similar letter in the Senate, which drew a record 48 signatures.
To reauthorize and fully dedicate LWCF funding before it expires in 2015, Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Richard Burr (R-NC) recently introduced S. 338. Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell have previously co-sponsored S. 338.
While you’re thanking them for their good work, please urge our Senators to sign-on as co-sponsors.
Photo by brewbrooks