U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today highlighted the importance of reauthorizing and modernizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act so that it reflects the changing needs and evolving viewpoints about conservation in the 21st century. The LWCF was enacted 50 years ago to increase recreational opportunities for Americans. Since then, it has been used to acquire more public lands even though there are insufficient means to maintain lands already owned by the federal government.
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“I strongly believe that conservation in the 21st century must include taking care of what we already have – what we chose to conserve first – instead of simply pretending that ‘more is always better,’” Murkowski said. “As we look to reauthorize LWCF, I believe that it makes sense to shift the federal focus away from land acquisition, particularly in Western states, toward maintaining and enhancing the accessibility and quality of the resources that we have. This is the best way to put our nation’s recreation system on the path of long-term viability.”
Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, pressed the administration on its use of LWCF for only a land acquisition fund rather than using the LWCF to also maintain public lands.
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“We keep adding to that land bank without focusing on the responsibility for management and maintenance of what is contained in that bank. At what point should be start taking care of what we already own rather than the continual focus on acquisition,” Murkowski said. “We have a financial and stewardship obligation to care for these lands that we now have under our federal management.”
Murkowski outlined her vision for the future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and called for increased flexibility in the LWCF.
“Land management is different in Alaska than it is in Maine and right now we have a one-size-fits-all mentality. If you are from a western state that has big spaces and already a lot of public lands you are going to be viewing it differently than a state in the East. In the LWCF, the state-side program, in particular, helps provide the flexibility to provide great spaces for people around the country. It’s important that the state-side program is robust,” Murkowski said. “The LWCF is not broken. As with any program there is room for improvement. This is a measure that was put in place 50 years ago and it’s right and appropriate to look at it in the context of how it is operating today.”