Wildlife Management Institute

Bills Would Ensure Full Funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund PDF Print
Tuesday, 15 December 2009 14:26

U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman (NM) and Max Baucus (MT) introduced legislation in November that would permanently provide $900 million annually to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the federal government’s main program to protect land and provide outdoor recreation opportunities. The legislation, S. 2747, is supported by a broad coalition of conservation and recreation organizations. In addition, a provision within the House Resource Committee Chairman Nick Rahall’s Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act of 2009, HR 3534, also would provide dedicated LWCF funding, reports the Wildlife Management Institute.

“Even in difficult economic times, open space protection and outdoor recreation are top priorities for Americans. Two out of three American voters continue to offer strong support for public investments in conservation–and that support has held steady despite the economic downturn,” stated Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “Senator Bingaman and Senator Baucus clearly understand this and are taking that crucial step towards making a dependable investment in the future of this country’s communities.”

The LWCF, created in 1965, has helped protect land at some of America’s most famous and popular places, including America’s iconic national parks, national forests, wildlife refuges and National Landscape Conservation System Lands. The program also includes grants to support state and local parks. Those grants help develop park facilities and recreational amenities—creating jobs and supporting the quality-of-life factors that allow communities to attract employers and a strong work force.

Every year, $900 million goes into the fund from offshore oil and gas lease revenue. But Congress often has redirected the money for other purposes; only once in the history of the fund has all the money gone for the original intent of the LWCF. This year, the LWCF received its greatest allocation—more than $300 million—in many years, but that still is only a third of what it is supposed to be. Because only a fraction of the funds dedicated to the purpose have actually been spent, there is a backlog of more than $30 billion worth of lands that federal agencies would like to protect. In addition, states say they have a huge unmet need for local parks and recreation resources.

Federal and state public lands as well local parks and recreation facilities greatly enhance communities’ quality of life, which, in turn, helps large and small localities attract new residents and businesses and generate tourism-related jobs and revenues. Outdoor recreation, including hunting, fishing, camping, climbing, hiking, paddling, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, wildlife viewing and other activities, contributes a total of $730 billion annually to the economy, supporting 6.5 million jobs (1 of every 20 jobs in the U.S.) and stimulates 8 percent of all consumer spending according to the Outdoor Industry Foundation. (jas)