WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the expiration of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) fast approaching, a bipartisan coalition of 53 senators led by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) is calling on Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Reid to permanently reauthorize and adequately fund the nation’s premier federal conservation program, now in its 50th year.
“Investments in LWCF support public land conservation and ensure access to the outdoors for all Americans, in communities and cities alike,” the senators wrote. “It has created outdoor recreation opportunities in every state and 98 percent of counties across the country, opening up key areas for hunting, fishing and other recreational access; supporting working forests and ranches; acquiring inholdings and protecting critical lands in national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, Civil War battlefields and other federal areas; and making additions and improvements to state and local parks and recreation facilities.”
The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1964 established one of America’s most successful conservation programs. Using funds primarily derived from oil and gas receipts paid to the federal government by energy companies that extract publically owned resources, the program supports the nation’s land, water, historic and recreational heritage. The program also supports America’s outdoor recreation, conservation and preservation economies, which contribute more than $1 trillion to the nation’s economy each year and support 9.4 million American jobs.
As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Collins has long led efforts to support the LWCF, including matching federal grants to states and local communities to develop outdoor recreation facilities, parks, and resources, and funding to support the acquisition of key parcels within Acadia National Park, a true gem of the Maine coastline. Just this June, Senator Collins offered an amendment to the committee-approved fiscal year 2016 Senate Interior Appropriations bill that would add $14 million for LWCF, restoring it to the fiscal year 2015 level.
The authorization for the program expires on Sept. 30, threatening continuation of LWCF’s long and successful history. In their request, the senators note that adequate and consistent funding will help ensure that the fund plays the strongest possible role in revitalizing local communities while having the greatest conservation impact across the country.
The Senators’ letter can be found here.