Elimination of Land and Water Conservation Fund threatens access, outdoor business
Washington, D.C. — Despite strong bipartisan support in Congress and among the public, an Appropriations Subcommittee in the House of Representatives today approved a bill that would eliminate America’s premier outdoors protection program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). In a move that is being met with strong opposition from sportsmen, business leaders and partners, the bill for the first time in history proposes to divert the entire $900 million in oil and gas revenues credited annually to LWCF for unrelated spending, leaving nothing for the fund’s authorized purposes.
Congresswoman Jaime Hererra Beutler (R-3) serves on the Subcommittee.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is essential for all sportsmen and women who rely on access to the outdoors for hunting and fishing,” said Barry Nilson, Eastern Washington regional director of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. “This bill violates a promise made to the American people to protect our outdoor legacy for future generations.”
The proposal would halt investment in conserving working forestlands on the Olympic Peninsula and in Klickitat County; efforts to improve the Pacific Crest Trail; the creation and improvement of parks in the towns and cities across Washington; and protection of outdoor recreation lands in the Central Cascades.
LWCF has been the nation’s primary tool to conserve parks, wildlife refuges, forests, rivers, trails, urban parks and playgrounds since 1965. The fund uses revenues from the sale of offshore oil and gas resources, not taxpayer dollars.
If passed, the bill would damage Washington’s $22.5 billion outdoor recreation economy and the local communities that rely on the outdoors to support a quality of life that attracts workers and businesses.
“Outdoor recreation businesses like the companies we represent rely on access to boat launches, parks, trails and clean waterways for the economic livelihood of thousands of people employed across Washington State,” said George Harris, President/CEO of the Northwest Marine Trade Association. “This shortsighted bill disregards the real and lasting benefits of outdoor protection for our state’s economy and jobs.”
In sharp contrast, the Senate’s 2014 budget, written by Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, proposes full funding at $900 million for LWCF. The President’s budget recommends significant increases, not cuts.
“We’re grateful to our Washington Congressional Delegation for fighting for strong funding for the LWCF,” said Joanna Grist, executive director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “Their constituents are relying on them to make sure our state continues to benefit from this essential program.”
The House’s action stands in opposition to bipartisan efforts to support LWCF, including recent letters from 157 Members of the House of Representatives and 48 Senators, including Republicans and Democrats, urging the Appropriations Committee to dedicate robust funding for LWCF in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
- The proposal is part of a House Interior Appropriations bill that includes a host of other program eliminations and cuts.
- These stark cuts in natural resource programs are a direct result of the larger budget process in the House, which slashed the funding available to the Subcommittee by over $5 billion, or nearly 20 percent, from current-year levels.
- President Obama’s budget proposed $600 million for LWCF in 2014 and full funding beginning in 2015.
- On March 23, with the leadership of Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), the U.S. Senate passed a Budget Resolution that would enable full funding of LWCF.
- Bipartisan legislation to fully fund LWCF, S.338, was recently introduced by Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). S.338 has now gained 27 sponsors, a number which continues to grow.