The Coalition’s Executive Director, Christine Mahler, attended the LWCF fly-in last month in Washington DC to advocate for this crucial public lands program.
WOW! Congress has come together in a dramatic bipartisan fashion to support reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)! What a victory for the conservation and recreation communities all across the country, made possible thanks to the distinguished leadership of our Congressional representatives from across the state, especially Maria Cantwell, who led the effort in the Senate and has been working across the aisle for years to make this happen.
I was lucky enough to have been invited to participate in a LWCF advocacy fly-in this last week and touched down in the other Washington just a few hours before the House voted on this bill, turning my advocacy trip into a gratitude tour. This bill (S. 47) not only permanently reauthorized the LWCF, but also included several other important measures for communities across the country, but especially for our partners at the Mountains to Sound Greenway, in the Methow, and in Yakima!
Why is the LWCF so important?
Imagine it: a private landowner with property within the boundaries of Mount Rainier or Olympic National Park decides that they are ready to sell their land, and sells it to a commercial developer instead of the parks service. That precious land is then developed into housing tracts and shopping centers, no longer available for Washingtonians to explore and displacing all of the wild animals that once called it home.
LWCF prevents this from happening all over the nation, and in our own beautiful state. LWCF funds help purchase these “inholdings” when they come up for sale from willing buyers, reducing maintenance costs and ensuring the integrity of these beloved landscapes.
Or what if you lived in one of the poorest section of Seattle and had only a sad, rutted field and outdated equipment hiding in a dark corner behind the community center as a park for your kids to play? LWCF funds help underserved communities across the country develop parks where they’re most needed.
This permanent reauthorization means that the Fund will exist in perpetuity. We won’t have to keep asking the legislature to continue this program when it expires, and dealing with the uncertainty if they just kick the can down the road a few years with a temporary reauthorization, as they did last time around.
But permanent reauthorization just means the LWCF will exist forever—it doesn’t mean that they have the funds they need to execute these critical projects.
So this is a huge step forward, but we’re not done yet. LWCF is funded through off-shore oil revenues—meaning no cost to the taxpayer—but Congress has traditionally diverted a portion of these funds to other purposes. Up next: working for full, dedicated funding for LWCF!