As World Series ends, Americans look to the Land and Water Conservation Fund for future fields of dreams
As part of a campaign to convince Congress to reauthorize and fund the expired Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), Environment America recently made two pitches on Capitol Hill -- delivering a baseball cookie and a clock toy to each of the 541 offices (435 representatives, 6 delegates, and 100 Senators). The baseball cookie reminded Congress that all Americans, regardless of political party, are on the same team when it comes to LWCF. Of more than 45,000 projects funded by LWCF over the past 50 years, over 700 were public ballfields across the country -- maybe even some of the fields of dreams where the Red Sox’s and Dodgers’ players took their first swings.
“LWCF projects such as ballfields are part of the fabric of American society. In counties rural and urban, heartland and coastal, the LWCF has had a long-running winning streak incorporating public land into our communities in responsible ways,” said Erik DuMont, Environment America’s public lands conservation campaign director.
After the cookies made a hit, the clock toys, imprinted with the words, “It’s time to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” got their turn at bat.
“Just like America’s favorite pastime, The Land and Water Conservation Fund is America’s most popular and successful conservation program, and unless Congress renews it promptly, we’ll all lose,” said DuMont.
Beyond funding fields for our national pastime and other youth sports, since Congress created the LWCF in the 1960s, the Fund has disbursed more than $18 billion to preserve and protect hiking trails, historic sites, battlefields, monuments, parks and forests across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and federal territories. Federal agencies such as the National Park Service or the National Forest Service get some of the money; some goes directly to states and territories.
Despite bipartisan popularity, Congress didn’t prioritize extending the program, so it expired on September 30th. Since then, both House and Senate committees have advanced bills that would permanently reauthorize the LWCF. The Senate bill would additionally make sure it permanently gets the full $900 million a year allowed by law. It has never before received full funding.
When Congress initially authorized the LWCF in 1964, it was authorized to amass up to $900 million annually from revenues generated when the government leased offshore oil and gas drilling sites. The idea was to offset this environmentally-destructive fossil fuel extraction with land conservation projects.
“In an increasingly industrialized and paved-over America, it’s more important than ever that we protect and enhance our wild open spaces,” said DuMont. “Congress -- it’s time to permanently pass the Land and Water Conservation Fund to make sure our children will have places to hike, see nature and play ball, just like we did as kids. It’s only fair.”