Democratic News

Jul 18 2016

Bicameral, Bipartisan Coalition Calls to Keep the LWCF Program Alive, Citing Economic Benefits of the Program to Washington State

Interior Secretary, Members of Congress, Business Leaders, Outdoors Advocates Rally in Seattle

LWCF Provides a Cleaner Environment, More Jobs, Economic Benefits, More Open Space and Increased Public Access to the Outdoors

Seattle – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) gathered a diverse group to rally for the successful Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is one program at issue in the conference negotiations for a bipartisan energy bill.

“Last year, I led a bill with 30 colleagues to permanently reauthorize and provide mandatory funding for the program. Working with Sen Murkowski, we were able to work out a compromise for permanent reauthorization, and that is what we would like to keep in the conference report with the House of Representatives,” said Sen. Cantwell. “I want to thank Congressman Reichert for being here, because he will be a key supporter of this legislation in the House of Representatives. And I hope he will continue to communicate to our House colleagues how important this is.”

At Gas Works Park in downtown Seattle, attendees also heard from U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell; U.S. Representative Dave Reichert (Wash.-08); famed mountaineer, environmentalist and Washington-native Jim Whittaker; and owner and CEO of Outdoor Research Inc. Dan Nordstrom. They spoke on the broad benefits and importance of the LWCF on Washington state’s economy.

“The eight mile hike I took with my two grandsons last summer through the Alpine Lake Wilderness area is just one of the many experiences that remind me what protecting Washington’s natural gifts is all about,” said Rep. Reichert. “Funding the LWCF is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. Since it was authorized by Congress, areas protected by the LWCF have served as a huge economic stimulus for our region, supporting countless jobs and attracting potential employees at Google, Amazon, Microsoft and many of the biggest job-creating companies in the state. We have a responsibility to our region and future generations to make sure this program remains strong and fully funded.”

Gas Works Park is one of the most popular and iconic places for families to get outside together in Seattle. Formerly, it was the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company, until it was purchased in 1962 to be converted into the 19-acre park. Since 1975, the park has been open to the public and is known as a national and international model for industrial site conversions. This park is just one of the many important outdoor places that would not be here today without the LWCF.

“One of the key tools in our toolbox for the last 52 years has been the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Secretary Jewell said. “Sen. Cantwell and Congressman Reichert have been tireless advocates for its permanent reauthorization and full funding, knowing we need places that will remain untouched for future generations.”

Members of the U.S. Congress will begin work on reconciling two energy bills—one from the Senate and one from the House. The Senate bill included a permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but the House version did not. Sen. Cantwell, Secretary Jewell and others spoke today on how important this program is to so many states, demonstrating why the program should be included in a final energy bill.

“Congress needs to start thinking of the LWCF as a jobs bill. Here in Washington, our state has become a magnet for tech, aerospace and life sciences companies, because their employees care about quality of life,” said Dan Nordstrom, CEO of Outdoor Research, Inc. “The outdoor industry is one of the largest sectors of the national economy. It’s important Congress understands what’s at stake.”

It’s no secret how important outdoor recreation made possible by the LWCF is to the state’s economy. In the state of Washington alone, active outdoor recreation generates roughly $22.5 billion in consumer spending, and it produces $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenue.

“Getting people outdoors, teaching them to leave no footprints, to clean up the place when they go out and they’re getting out into nature, learning about themselves,” said Mountaineer Jim Whittaker. “So that’s the thing—we get them outside … so they can learn to love it. And if they love it, they’ll take care of it.”

Throughout this Congress, Sen. Cantwell has urged the Senate to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the LWCF that supports more than 6 million jobs nationwide. The nation’s most successful conservation program protects national parks, forests, public lands and historical sites, and it provides opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking and other recreational uses.

Secretary Jewell praised Sen. Cantwell for her dedication to this program: “Sen. Cantwell has been a tireless advocate for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and so many other things that recognize that we are growing as a people and we need places to breathe. We need places that will be untouched for future generations. She’s been a real advocate for this, and it’s not easy being in Congress. One thing that shocked me the most was just how difficult it was to get anything done, but Sen. Cantwell got permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund into the energy bill, with her partner Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs that committee and also the Appropriations Committee for the Department of the Interior. And we wouldn’t have that in if it wasn’t for the advocacy of Sen. Cantwell.”

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