Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced legislation to permanently authorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which conserves and promotes public access to the country’s national parks, forests and public lands. The program is set to expire in September of this year.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the country’s most successful conservation law, supporting an outdoor economy of more than $600 billion annually and 6 million American jobs,” said Sen. Cantwell, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “The LWCF is essential to preserving America’s public outdoor spaces, which improve our quality of life and provide important recreational and cultural opportunities.”
The LWCF, established in 1965, funds the purchase and development of parks, wildlife refuges and recreation resources of federal and state lands and facilities. The program’s federal component provides funding for additions to national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and other federal public lands used for outdoor recreation and habitat preservation. The LWCF’s state component provides matching grants to states and localities for investments in outdoor recreation facilities, such as parks and playfields.
“In the state of Washington, 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.”
Original co-sponsors of the bill also include Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).
“The LWCF is a bonanza for rural America. It protects our public lands, clean water and wildlife, nurtures tourism and supports outdoor recreation, local businesses and local economies overall,” Sen. Wyden said. “I’m proud to join Sen. Cantwell and my colleagues in introducing a bill that ensures Americans will have these lands for a long time to come.”
“The LWCF is a critical tool that has helped boost Colorado’s tourism and outdoor recreation economy,” Sen. Bennet said. “The fund provides resources for widely-supported projects across the state, from building city parks in Denver to conserving parcels of land high in the San Juan Mountains, to providing important sportsmen’s access. Congress should pass this bill to permanently reauthorize the program and ensure the LWCF receives full and dedicated funding going forward.”
"The Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped protect some of our most treasured public lands, including the Valles Caldera National Preserve and the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico,” Sen. Heinrich said. “The LWCF also expands opportunities for outdoor traditions like hunting, camping and fishing that are among the pillars of Western culture, and a thriving outdoor recreation economy. Permanently and fully funding the LWCF will help ensure that the outdoor places we all enjoy will be protected for future generations to enjoy."
“Permanently funding LWCF is an investment in our outdoor economy and puts more folks to work on our public lands,” Sen. Tester said. “When we fully fund the LWCF, we increase access to our most treasured places, strengthen our outdoor heritage and keep our public lands in public hands.”
"The Land and Water Conservation Fund has had a powerful impact in New Mexico, providing resources to conserve special outdoor spaces that enhance tourism and enrich our quality of life. Just last year, thanks to LWCF, we created the Valle de Oro in Bernalillo County, the first urban national wildlife refuge in the country, and an educational gem for the Albuquerque area," Sen. Udall said. "LWCF is an investment that pays dividends — for every $1 invested, we see a return of $4 to local communities. It's time to allow the LWCF to meet its full potential for communities and future generations by making it permanent and ensuring it is fully funded."