Sen. Murray joins fight for land and water funding, co-sponsors legislation to fund Land and Water Conservation

August 13, 2012

Murray recognizes critical role that conservation plays in Washington State economy — 115,000 Washington jobs depend on recreation, outdoors

Seattle — U.S. Sen. Patty Murray has stepped up to lead the fight to protect wildlife habitat, clean water, and access to Washington State’s outdoors by co-sponsoring legislation to protect the Land and Water Conservation Fund (S. 1265, the Land and Water Conservation Funding and Reauthorization Act). If passed by Congress, the bill would ensure sufficient Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) monies were available for four pending national park and forest projects — Mt. Rainier National Park, Pysht Coastal Forest, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, and parts of the Pacific Crest Trail — as well as provide matching grants for community parks across the state of Washington.

The bill is especially critical this year in the face of dramatic cuts to conservation funding in the U.S. House of Representatives, which has proposed an 80 percent cut to LWCF funding. A recent attempt to ensure LWCF funding through the transportation bill passed earlier this summer was unsuccessful, leaving projects in jeopardy around the country.

LWCF is the nation’s primary tool to protect state and national parks, wildlife refuges, and working forests and rangelands. The grant program is funded with a small portion of federal revenues from offshore oil and gas leases; none of the funding for LWCF comes from tax dollars. The popularity of the LWCF was demonstrated in a recent national poll, which found an overwhelming 88 percent of Americans, from Tea Party supporters to Democrats, support Congress’ continued funding of LWCF.

If passed, S. 1265 would provide full and dedicated funding for LWCF, ensuring communities around Washington receive critical funding needed to create parks and protect prized hunting areas. The bill would also dedicate a portion of funds to enhancing access to public lands for hunters, anglers and other recreationists, also at no cost to taxpayers.

“We applaud Senator Murray’s leadership on behalf of our clean water, wildlife habitat, and access to the outdoors. By signing onto this long-overdue legislation, Senator Murray has demonstrated her commitment not only to conservation in Washington State, but also to our state’s vital recreation economy. This is especially important in these tough tough times when cuts to conservation spending nationally could threaten local jobs,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.

Each year over 2.7 million people enjoy hunting, fishing and wildlife watching across Washington, contributing $3 billion to the state’s economy. In addition, active outdoor recreation in the state generates over $11.7 billion in revenues annually, supporting 115,000 jobs.

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; as well as providing grants to hundreds of state and local parks, trails, fishing access sites and recreational facilities.

Senator Murray joins 28 bipartisan U.S. Senate colleagues in co-sponsoring the bill, including Sen. Cantwell, Sen Baucus, Sen Blumenthal, Sen Tester, Sen. Brown, Sen. Burr, and Sen. Graham.

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 by Congress in the annual budget and appropriations process, with funding consistently diverted to other purposes–despite public support otherwise.