Amendment to Transportation Bill Supports Local Jobs, Communities
Washington—The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition today praised a vote in the U.S. Senate by Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell to provide dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), benefitting local communities and jobs.
“Small business owners, hunters, anglers, conservation leaders and communities across Washington join me in thanking both Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell for their continued leadership and support for our great outdoors,” said Joanna Grist, Executive Director for the Coalition. “Especially in these tough economic times, protecting our recreation economy is essential.”
Senators Murray and Cantwell joined their colleagues in the U.S. Senate to vote in favor of a bipartisan amendment to the transportation bill which would provide $700 million per year in mandatory funding for LWCF over the next two years (consistent with the time frame of the overall bill) as well as authorize the LWCF program for the next 10 years. The amendment 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 families visit every day.
With $700 million, LWCF could fund all 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.
Active outdoor recreation supports 115,000 jobs across Washington and contributes more than $11.7 billion annually to the state’s economy, according to data from the Outdoor Industry Foundation.
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. Although the fund is authorized to receive up to $900 million per year, Congress has routinely diverted LWCF funds for other uses.
Recent polling shows that Americans across the political, racial, and geographic spectrum support LWCF. An overwhelming 85% of Americans support full funding for LWCF. By similar margins, a vast majority of Americans want Congress to honor its commitment to dedicate LWCF funds to these purposes rather than diverting them for unrelated uses.
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.