A group of 172 House members signed onto a letter (see below) that asks their colleagues to prioritize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. They should be lauded for making the program a priority. This is important news because the fund is America’s most effective conservation and recreation program.
Despite Americans’ love of parks and outdoor recreation — and despite the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s wild success in preserving America’s natural heritage, including the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Boundary Waters and so much more — $22 billion that should have been used for conservation purposes has been redirected for unrelated spending since the fund’s inception in 1965.
Photo: Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Credit: National Park Service
Fully funding this program will help local communities, our states and the federal government protect outdoor places, from city parks to some of our most iconic and awe-inspiring federally protected landscapes.
Credit goes to U.S. Reps. Mike Thompson of California and James McGovern of Massachusetts for spearheading this effort, as well as the other 170 House members who signed the letter below.
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer:
As supporters of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), we urge you to advance legislation to the House floor as soon as possible that would ensure full, permanent, and dedicated funding for America’s most important conservation and recreation program. Congress overwhelmingly reaffirmed a bipartisan commitment to LWCF by permanently reauthorizing the program in 2019, and we believe Congress must now finish the job by guaranteeing permanent funding at $900 million annually.
Every state and county in the nation has benefitted from LWCF, which has protected some of the nation’s most iconic landscapes and precious natural, historical and cultural resources; provided clean, safe drinking water to countless communities; and secured close-to-home opportunities for all to enjoy the outdoors. Much more, however, must be done, with ever-increasing demand for conservation and recreation investment through LWCF, and a critical and growing backlog of project needs all across the country. Our population is growing, our outdoor recreation economy is growing, and the need for conservation of our land and water both to provide equitable access for all and to build resilience in our communities and natural systems in the face of a changing climate has never been greater.
LWCF was created as a simple yet elegant concept: take a small portion of the revenues from the sale of natural resources belonging to the public and reinvest it in the protection of other natural resources for the benefit of all. Yet year after year, on average more than half these funds have been diverted, only to vanish into the general revenue stream with no accountability. Last year, with 363 votes in the House, Congress approved and the President signed into law permanent authorization for LWCF, thereby guaranteeing the annual deposit of $900 million in revenues for this program. We now need to ensure that those revenues are being spent on their intended purpose by approving dedicated funding for LWCF. This measure would finally make real the promise that was made to the American people nearly half a century ago – and was resoundingly reaffirmed this Congress – to reinvest these receipts from natural resource development in vital conservation and outdoor recreation priorities.
Every state stands to gain a great deal from full, dedicated funding of LWCF, which protects national parks and other key public lands from the threat of development inside their borders; connects landscapes for wildlife and fire management; preserves water quantity and quality; increases access for recreation for all Americans no matter where they live, and fuels the juggernaut of our outdoor economy. Over time, nearly $22 billion has been diverted from LWCF and the communities we serve, leaving a tremendous backlog of need throughout our communities. Only full, dedicated, and permanent funding will truly empower these communities to leverage the tools LWCF offers and to determine their best futures. With broad consensus on the value of LWCF in Congress, now is the time to act.
LWCF enjoys the support of a broad-based majority of House Members, and we appreciate your leadership in affirming the importance of the program earlier this Congress. We now urge you to bring legislation to provide full, dedicated, and permanent funding to the floor at the earliest possible opportunity and to do all you can to see it through to enactment. Thank you for your consideration and for your strong commitment to safeguarding America’s natural resources.
See the full list of signers:
Senior Director, Conservation America Campaign, Environment America
Steve directs Environment America’s efforts to protect our public lands and waters and the species that depend on them. He led our successful campaign to win full and permanent funding for our nation’s best conservation and recreation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He previously oversaw U.S. PIRG’s public health campaigns. Steve lives in Sacramento, California, with his family, where he enjoys biking and exploring Northern California.