New draft legislation could undercut funds for high priority projects in Washington.
Recently, the US Senate passed legislation to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Representative Rob Bishop (UT), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, just threw up a new hurdle, however. His draft legislation 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.
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.
On April 28th, the House Natural Resources Sub Committee on Federal Lands held a hearing to discuss the proposed legislation. Snohomish County Councilmember Hans Dunshee testified on behalf of Washington state and spoke of the benefits of the LWCF in our state:
“The 15% of the money spent west of the 100th meridian would put my county at a disadvantage. Public land in my county is a job creator and an economic benefit. […] 50 million dollars in economic activity and 14,000 jobs are created out of just federal lands in my county.”