Transportation bill provides $1.4 billion for federal Land and Water Conservation Fund over two years
Washington— Today, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition roundly applauded Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell for voting to provide dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), benefitting local communities and jobs.
“This is a huge victory for our state,” said Peter Dykstra, President of the Coalition’s Board and Pacific Northwest Regional Director for the Wilderness Society. “Investments in the Land and Water Conservation Fund not only protect our irreplaceable land and water resources, but also support local economies — our conservation and recreation-based economy supports 115,000 jobs across Washington. Conservation leaders, hunters, anglers, small business owners and communities can come together to celebrate this historic action and good conservation policy beginning to move through Congress.”
The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan transportation bill yesterday that provides $700 million per year in mandatory funding for LWCF over the next two years and authorizes the LWCF program for the next decade. Senators Murray and Cantwell joined their colleagues to vote for a measure to fund LWCF in the bill which passed 76-22 with bipartisan support.
For nearly 50 years, LWCF has protected parks and playgrounds, wildlife habitat, clean water, and working landscapes in Washington and across the country. LWCF funds have helped protect Mount Rainier, Olympic National Park, Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, and Mount St Helens, and create hundreds of local and state parks that families visit every day.
With $700 million, LWCF could fund land protection projects recommended in the recently released Fiscal Year 2013 Interior Department budget, including Mt Rainier National Park, scenic lands along the Pacific Crest Trail, wildlife habitat in Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, and working forest lands along the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Pysht Coastal Forest.
The fund does not use taxpayer dollars. Instead, it uses funds generated by the depletion of one public resource – oil and gas royalties from the Outer Continental Shelf – to protect our irreplaceable natural heritage on land.
“LWCF is authorized to receive $900 million per year, but Congress has routinely diverted funds for other uses,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director for the Coalition. “We are tremendously grateful to Senators Cantwell and Murray for voting to fulfill this promise to the American people. Now, we need our representatives in the House to stand up for our quality of life as well.”
The U.S. House of Representatives will need to pass its own transportation bill or a version of the Senate bill before the bill becomes law. The House version of the bill does not currently include a provision to fund LWCF.
About the WWRC
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition (WWRC) is a non-profit citizens group founded in a historic bipartisan effort by former Governors Dan Evans and Mike Lowry. A diverse group of over 250 organizations representing conservation, business, recreation, hunting, fishing, farming, and community interests, the Coalition’s breadth and diversity helps secure a level of funding for parks and habitat that individuals could not achieve alone.
About the LWCF
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) supports federal acquisition and conservation easements of our nation’s most precious lands and waters, and provides matching funds for state and local entities to acquire and develop recreational opportunities in almost every county of the nation. The Forest Legacy Program, which is funded through LWCF, provides grants to states to protect working forests and water quality and provide access for recreation. Created in 1965, the LWCF is authorized to receive $900 million annually in federal revenue from oil and gas leasing of the Outer Continental Shelf. The LWCF, however, has been chronically shortchanged in the annual budget and appropriations process, with funding consistently diverted to other purposes.