Sen. Murray joins bill to defend nation’s outdoor heritage

March 13, 2014

Bill would fully fund and reauthorize land and water program without taxpayer dollars

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray continues to lead conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives in Washington State, co-sponsoring legislation to protect the Land and Water Conservation Fund (S. 338, Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act).

If passed by Congress, the bill would ensure the full $900 million in offshore oil and gas royalties that is supposed to go into the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) each year is no longer diverted. This would end years of diversion for unrelated spending that has left communities across the country without much-needed grants for conservation and recreation projects.

LWCF is the nation’s primary tool to protect state and national parks, trails, wildlife refuges, and working forests and rangelands. None of the funding for LWCF comes from tax dollars.

The bill would reauthorize LWCF, which is currently set to sunset in 2015, and dedicate a portion of funds to enhancing recreational access to public lands for hunters, anglers and other recreationists.

“We applaud Senator Murray’s leadership on behalf of our natural heritage. By signing onto this long-overdue legislation, Senator Murray has demonstrated her commitment not only to clean land and water and close-to-home recreational access, but also to our state’s vital recreation economy,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “Our public lands create jobs and billions of dollars in spending that is essential to keeping our communities strong, both in rural towns near national parks and in urban areas in need of green spaces.”

As chair of the Budget Committee, Senator Murray worked with Congressman Paul Ryan to achieve a deficit neutral reserve fund for full funding of LWCF in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.

The President’s recently released budget also proposed full and dedicated funding for the LWCF.

Each year over 2.7 million people enjoy hunting, fishing and wildlife watching across Washington. In addition, active outdoor recreation in the state generates over $22.5 billion in retail spending, supporting 227,000 jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Since 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided nearly half a billion dollars of non-taxpayer investment in state and federal land conservation projects in Washington State. It has supported projects from Mt. Rainier, Olympic, and North Cascades national parks to the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway/I-90 Corridor, Cascade Ecosystems and the Pacific Crest Trail.

LWCF has also supported local projects by providing grants to hundreds of state and local parks, trails, fishing access sites and recreational facilities.

Senator Murray joins 39 bipartisan U.S. Senate colleagues in co-sponsoring the bill, including Senators Cantwell, Mark Udall, Blumenthal, Tester, Brown, Burr, and Graham.

About LWCF

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.

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.