The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a federal fund, established in 1964, that is set up to invest in the conservation and preservation of public land and waters. It helps secure and enhance public access, conservation, ecosystem preservation, and outdoor recreation infrastructure in every state and nearly every county in the United States. The LWCF has helped create an extensive network of public lands for all Americans to enjoy.
Each year $900 million dollars are paid into the LWCF from royalty payments from offshore oil and gas reserves, yet over time, $20 billion of these funds have been diverted to other uses leaving inadequate funding for conservation projects. Funding for the LWCF was originally approved for 25 years, was reauthorized for another 25 years in 1990, then was reauthorized for three years in 2015 and expired on September 30, 2018.
On March 12, 2019, after overwhelming bipartisan support by Congress, President Trump signed the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act into law. This Act includes extensive support for public lands,including permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). However, despite this step in the right direction, President Trump and Acting Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt's proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget still refuses to fund LWCF at it's full $900 million and instead proposes practically eliminating LWCF funding.
Outdoor recreation and proximity to open spaces - many of which have been enhanced through use of the LWCF- draw residents and tourists to mountain communities which provides significant economic support and a distinct way of life.
In fact, counties in close proximity to public lands have been found to perform better in several key economic factors than counties without nearby public lands. Outdoor recreation such as hiking, biking, kayaking, hunting, and fishing contributed and incredible 2 percent of the United States Gross Domestic Product in 2016 and is growing faster than the overall United States economy at a rate of 3.8 compared to 2.8 percent.
Without funding for the further protection and enhancement of America’s public lands, the economic success and cultural vitality of mountain communities may be at risk. While permanent authorization of the LWCF deserves celebration and thank yous, Congress and the Trump Administration need to consider the implications of not providing full funding to this essential program. Many projects funded by the LWCF are multi-year projects that require commitment and collaboration from a variety of stakeholders. This sort of partnership requires certainty that the project will be funded to completion.
The Mountain Pact
On August 8th, 2018 sixty-four local elected officials sent in a letter to Congress urging them to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Accompanying this letter, the Mountain Pact released a new report ‘The Case for Reauthorizing and Fully Funding The Land and Water Conservation Fund - Why Congress Must Act’.
Five Mountain Pact city council members and mayor pro tems from Aspen, Telluride, Avon, Frisco, Colorado, as well as Bend, Oregon traveled to Washington DC in April, 2018 to ask members of congress and the administration to fully fund and permanently reauthorize LWCF.
Avon Colorado's Mayor Pro Tem Sarah Smith Hymes published an op-ed in The Hill on April 23, 2018.
Whitefish, Montana City Council Member Richard Hildner, was quoted in The Missoula Current on May 10, 2018.
Bend Oregon's City Council Member Nathan Boddie published an op-ed in the Bend Bulletin on May 28th, 2018.
Ridgway, Colorado Mayor John Clark published an op-ed in the Telluride Daily Planet on August 30th, 2018.
Estes Park, Colorado Town Administrator Frank Lancaster published an op-ed in the Boulder Daily Camera on August 31st, 2018.
Whitefish, Montana city councilor, Richard Hildner published an op-ed in the Flathead Beacon on September 12th, 2018.
Missoula City Council alderman representing Ward 1 and City Council President Bryan von Lossberg and Sen. Nate McConnell published an op-ed in the Missoulian on September 20, 2018.
On September 27th, 2018 seven organizations - in partnership with The Mountain Pact - sent a letter to Congress urging them to fully fund and reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. On September 29th the Summit Daily News and Sky-Hi News in Colorado ran articles showcasing the letter.
Hood River City Council member, Peter Cornelison published an op-ed on October 29th, 2018 in The Oregonian on the value of Congress permanently authorizing and fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
A key goal of this policy campaign was to bring media attention to the issue and highlight mountain community support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund through coverage in Colorado Politics, The Gazette, Durango Herald, Inside Outdoors, Everett Herald, Antelope Valley Press, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and the Aurora Sentinel.
On February 4, 2019, The Mountain Pact, urged the U.S. Senate to take bipartisan action and permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as part of a public lands package. This effort was covered by SNEWS and The Durango Telegraph.
On February 26, 2019, The House passed the large public lands package which included LWCF reauthorization.
On March 12, 2019, The President signed the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act into law. Read the Mountain Pact Statement on Reauthorization of The Land and Water Conservation Fund and Administration’s Budget’s Elimination of LWCF Funding in Budget. This was covered by SNEWS, The Summit Daily, Whitefish Pilot, Sky-Hi Daily, and the Vail Daily.
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