Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s bill would permanently reauthorize premiere conservation and outdoor recreation program
For more information, contact: Vlad Gutman, 206.748.0082
The Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, which brings together 280 non-profit and conservation partners, expressed appreciation Wednesday for a bi-partisan energy bill released by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator Murkowski (R-AK) that includes permanent reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). If passed, the bill will secure funding for federal investments in national parks and forests, as well as support for state grant programs that fund working forests, local and state parks, and conservation projects important for hunting, hiking, camping and other recreation. Without Congressional action, the program will expire this September 30.
“In Washington State, the LWCF has helped preserve places like the Columbia River Gorge, Lake Chelan and Olympic National Park, and it has improved management of our public lands,” Sen. Cantwell said. “Thanks to the LWCF, we were able to maintain public access to camping and picnic areas on Mt. Rainier previously jeopardized by frequent flooding and costly maintenance.”
“We are deeply appreciative of the leadership shown by our own Senator Cantwell, and glad that Senators from both sides of the aisle continue to work together to preserve this critical program,” said Vlad Gutman, senior policy director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition. “Outdoor recreation supports nearly 200,000 jobs in Washington state. We need Congress to secure full funding and reauthorization for the LWCF to preserve our economy and quality of life, and we’re hopeful that with leaders like Sens. Cantwell and Murkowski working together across the aisle we can continue to preserve our great outdoor heritage.”
LWCF is entirely funded by a small portion of proceeds from offshore oil and gas drilling leases. The program is based on the principle that as we deplete one publically-owned natural resource we should invest in conserving our natural treasures for future generations. The fifty-year-old LWCF is the only federal program dedicated to the continued conservation of our public lands, and ensures that public lands remain truly accessible to the American people for outdoor recreation.
It was Washington Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson who first introduced the original Land and Water Conservation Fund Act in 1964. Since then, LWCF has invested over half a billion dollars for state and federal land conservation projects in Washington alone, providing grants to hundreds of state and local parks, trails, fishing access sites, and recreational facilities, and supporting working forests.
If reauthorized, the program would fund a number of proposed projects across Washington state in 2016, including:
- The preservation of 165 acres of historic farmland dating back to the 1850’s at Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island through conservation easements.
- Forest Legacy Program conservation easements to protect working forests at Mt. St. Helens and promote sustainable forestry.
- Federal acquisition of properties in the Lake Quinault area of the Olympic National to protect local fisheries and curb pollution that is threatening water quality.
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.
What is 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.