Congress gave outdoor lovers a lot to celebrate earlier this year, with the passage of the biggest public lands package in over a decade, including more than a million acres of new wilderness, the addition of three new national parks and the expansion of eight others.
Of particular importance, Congress passed permanent authorization to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which, for more than 50 years, has protected outdoor treasures in every state in the country, including the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge.
While Congress voted overwhelmingly to permanently authorize LWCF, it is now time for them to finish the job by passing legislation securing permanent and full funding.
We were proud to join Congressman Jeff Van Drew recently at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge to celebrate National Public Lands Day and cheer on his efforts in Congress. In June, he introduced HR 3195, which does just that. New Jersey’s entire congressional delegation are cosponsors.
LWCF has provided over $357 million for projects in New Jersey - more than $24 million in investments in Cape May have protected wetlands estimated to have prevented over $650 million in property damage during Superstorm Sandy.
There is still so much more that needs to be done, and while there is now a guarantee that America’s most important conservation and recreation program is here to stay, there is no guarantee LWCF will receive the funding it has been promised to carry on this important work. In fact, unless Congress takes action to provide full and dedicated funding for LWCF, it could mean that projects here in New Jersey may not move forward.
LWCF rarely gets funded at its authorized amount and often its funds are diverted for other purposes. Since the program was created in 1964, LWCF has received its authorized funding level just twice. Over the program’s 50-year history, about $22 billion intended for LWCF has been siphoned off from the fund for non-conservation purposes.
LWCF has been critical to funding places like Cape May National Wildlife Refuge along Delaware Bay. Not only is it one of the most pristine, beautiful shorelines in America, the refuge is critical to our statewide economy and climate resilience. Our organizations are working to build resilient coasts and resilient communities that provide one of our best win-win responses to climate change, using funding provided by LWCF.
We applaud Van Drew for leading the effort to fully and permanently fund LWCF. From Cape May National Wildlife Refuge and Delaware Bay wetlands to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, LWCF has funded the protection of some of our most popular treasured landscapes and recreational trails in the Northeast. LWCF provides tremendous benefits to every region in the country, but in order to continue this work, full and permanent funding is necessary.
We thank Van Drew for his leadership and our entire congressional delegation for cosponsoring this effort. We urge them all to ask their leadership to make full and permanent funding for America’s most successful bipartisan conservation program an immediate priority.
ED. NOTE: This letter was authored by Hansen, of New Jersey Conservation Foundation; Potosnak, of New Jersey League of Conservation Voters; Tompkins, of New Jersey Audubon; Allen, of New Jersey Chapter, The Nature Conservancy; and Witt, of Appalachian Mountain Club.