[Seattle, WA] Following a recent legislative victory in the US Senate that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), new draft legislation released by Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) in the House Natural Resources Committee aims to undercut the program by stripping away local control and functionally preventing Western states from conserving National Parks and other federal lands.
Described as the “Locally-elected Officials Cooperating with Agencies in Land Management Act” (L.O.C.A.L. Management Act), Title IV of the Bill would actually eliminate the locally-driven and legislative processes that ensure the availability of LWCF funds for high priority projects in our state, such as the Yakima River Canyon, Columbia River Wildlife Refuge, and Mount Rainier National Park.
The bill would also place unnecessary, community-damaging restrictions on the types and locations of LWCF projects, particularly in the West. Specifically, the proposed legislation effectively prohibits LWCF’s protection of public lands by imposing arbitrary administrative restrictions. It states that only 15% of total project acreage could be used to protect National Parks and other federal lands west of the 100th Meridian (which runs from North Dakota down to Texas).
If passed, this bill would have severe impacts on the fully-vetted, willing-seller projects proposed in Western states that, in some cases, have waited for years to get LWCF funding. High priority projects along the Pacific Crest Trail would no longer have the necessary funds to be completed, leaving willing seller landowners and communities in the lurch.
It also imposes restrictions on where land acquisition can take place by stating that only in-holdings that are 75% abutted by federal land would be eligible for funding – in-holdings are pockets of private land that fall within the boundaries of our national parks and wildlife refuges. This provision imposes restrictions that could undermine efforts to reduce wildlife risks, protect national trails, Civil War battlefields, historic areas, wildlife habitat, and other important lands.
In Washington state, LWCF has helped to protect some of our state’s most iconic landscapes, including Mount Rainier National Park, the Pacific Crest Trail, Yakima River Canyon, and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and drives an outdoor recreation industry that supports nearly 200,000 in-state jobs, and contributes to a $20.6 billion outdoor recreation industry in Washington alone.
Advocates across the country are calling on their representatives to oppose the bill, which will be voted on this Thursday, April 28th in the House Natural Resources Sub Committee on Federal Lands. “Title IV of this bill as written would do irreparable damage to the places in the West that Americans love,” said Lou-Anne Daoust-Filiatrault, Policy Associate for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, “bipartisan solutions for LWCF are a more productive path forward on this issue.”
For 50 years the LWFC has protected the land and waterways that make our state so special and has safeguarded public access to our great outdoors. It is the only source of federal funding that ensures our natural treasures, national parks and forests, and wildlife refuges aren’t lost forever to incompatible development.
About the Coalition
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition is a non-profit citizens group founded in a historic bipartisan effort by former Governors Dan Evans and Mike Lowry. The Coalition promotes public funding for Washington’s outdoors through the state Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Members consist of a diverse group of over 280 organizations representing conservation, business, recreation, hunting, fishing, farming and community interests. The breadth and diversity of the Coalition is the key to its success — no one member could secure such a high level of funding for parks and habitat on its own.
Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the nation’s premier federal grant program for conservation and outdoor recreation. The program uses no taxpayer dollars. Instead, $900 million in offshore oil and gas lease revenue is meant to be invested in parks and outdoor recreation opportunities each year. However, a majority of LWCF funds continue to be diverted for unrelated purposes.