WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-2nd) introduced the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Permanent Funding Act with Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and a bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers and environmental leaders June 12 at a press conference held at the U.S. Capitol.
According to a release, the bill fully funds LWCF at its authorized level of $900 million annually, which Congress routinely fails to do despite the program’s broad bipartisan support and decades of successful land conservation at the local, state and federal levels.
The public lands package that became law earlier this year included permanent LWCF reauthorization, which ensures that the program does not become a political football in future years but does not assure full funding.
LWCF, which is funded by oil and gas royalties extracted from federal waters in the Outer Continental Shelf, is authorized to spend $900 million annually on state, local and national conservation projects, but Congress has routinely underfunded the program by 50 percent or more each year.
Every state and county in the nation benefits from LWCF, all without taxpayers spending a dime of taxpayer dollars. Since 1965, LWCF has funded 42,000 projects across the country that have tremendous economic benefits and returns on investment for the country.
Studies show that each dollar spent on LWCF has the potential to generate twice that amount in economic activity. Additionally, our outdoor recreation contributes $887 billion annually to the economy and supports 7.6 million jobs.
The critical objective the bill would accomplish is to take the funding that is already being set aside for conservation and prevent future Congresses and any Administration from raiding this fund and using it for other purposes that were not intended when LWCF became law more than 50 years ago.
“This bill is the epitome of everything it means to work together in a bipartisan way to get things done here in Congress. It is an example of something that we can agree on. Together with Rep. Fitzpatrick, Chair Grijalva, and many others, we figured out a way to get something done that means something, that won’t cost a single tax payer dollar, and that protects our parks and lands,” stated Van Drew.
“For over 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested over $350 million for some of New Jersey’s most significant natural areas such as the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge which provides access for recreational hunting, fishing and other outdoor experiences like birding. Permanently reauthorizing LWCF was an important step, but now we need to finish the job and ensure that the funds intended to create parks and protect open spaces actually get utilized for those purposes. Our bipartisan bill is a win for taxpayers, good governance and future generations of Americans.”
“The ongoing bipartisan support for LWCF is really a testament to the work of the people here today,” Grijalva stated at the event. “I’m grateful for the leadership of Rep. Van Drew, who is championing this bill. We need to pass this legislation to ensure that LWCF can live up to its full potential.”
In addition to Grijalva, original cosponsors of the bill include Vice Chair Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Rep. TJ Cox (D-Calif.), Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.). Representatives Huffman, Fitzpatrick and Zeldin spoke at the June 12 event.
The congressmen were joined by Jenny Brandt, deputy director, Conservation Programs, Hispanic Access Foundation; Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Vice President of Government Affairs, Outdoor Industry Association; and Tiernan Sittenfeld, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, League of Conservation Voters.