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Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska Photo: Surfrider Foundation
A new report published yesterday by the Surfrider Foundation documents the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to America’s conservation legacy by showing how the special places supported by the Fund over its 55-year history have become the “heart and soul” of numerous communities — “protecting unique ecosystems and cultural resources, providing solace and recreation, and contributing extensively to our nation’s economy.” The report urges Congress to pass pending legislation that would provide permanent funding for the Fund, which is not supported by taxpayer dollars, but instead by revenues from offshore oil and gas leases.
Why This Matters: Without permanent funding, the LWCF is likely to continue to be a “political hostage” — used as a bargaining chip in whatever battle is brewing in Congress. America’s “best conservation program” and the natural wonders across the nation it supports are too important for partisan games. The LWCF was one of the greatest conservation measures ever passed, and its chief proponent, Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall, foresaw the many benefits that conserving these special places has provided the nation — every $1 invested in parks and recreation has yielded $4 in return. Since it isn’t funded by taxpayers and every state in the nation benefits from it, there is no good reason for it to continue to languish in Congress.
Current Status of the LWCF
Legislation to permanently appropriate $900 million in oil and gas royalties into the LWCF each year has cleared committees in both the House and the Senate and now is awaiting final action by both. The program nearly died two years ago when in September 2018, Congress let the LWCF run out of money and authority in the midst of a partisan spat. In March 2019, Congress reversed course and permanently reauthorized the LWCF with wide bipartisan support. However, the Trump Administration’s proposed 2020 budget tried to effectively kill it again by cutting its funding by 95%, which would have effectively eliminated the program. The legislation that is pending now would make the funding automatic each year without needing further action by the Executive or Legislative branches.
When the permanent funding bill passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Tom Udall, said, “The strong bipartisan vote brings us one big step closer to fulfilling the original promise of LWCF – and what my father, Stewart Udall, envisioned: reliable, ongoing protection for America’s most treasured open spaces for future generations. Now, I urge the full Senate to come together and pass this bill so that all Americans can continue to enjoy the beauty and recreational opportunities that our collective backyard provides.”
To Go Deeper: Check out the full Surfrider Foundation Report here.
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