Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and a cadre of bipartisan elected leaders touted the benefits of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) last week at a series of events held in North Carolina, Indiana, New Mexico, and Arizona. The tour highlighted the diverse activities funded by the LWCF , from urban parks to increased access to iconic public lands. Over its 50 year history, LWCF has spurred the investment of over $8 billion in more than 40,000 state and local priority projects that increase outdoor recreation opportunities and bolster local economies. These tremendous benefits to states and municipalities are one reason local leaders became so involved in this tour.
In North Carolina, Secretary Jewell started the morning with a hike along the Appalachian Trail, which is in large part maintained through LWCF funding, in the Blue Ridge Mountains with Republican Senator Richard Burr. Secretary Jewell touted the benefits of LWCF funds and pointed out that, “a dollar of Land and Water Conservation Fund turns into $4 for local economies.” Although Senator Burr believes Congress will renew the fund before it expires next summer, he called upon all supporters to help remind his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate of the promise that Congress made with this fund almost 50 years ago.
In both Carmel, Indiana and Phoenix, Arizona, Secretary Jewell joined with local mayors to showcase the important role LWCF has played in bringing urban populations outside. This is a critical use of the fund since over 80 percent of the U.S. population lives in or near a major city—compared to only 20% just 100 years ago. With this growing trend of urbanization, ensuring that people of all ages can connect to the outdoors and enjoy open spaces is crucial.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, Secretary Jewell was joined by Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, and Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham to announce the final acquisition and completion of the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, which is now the first urban wildlife refuge in the Southwest. Again, they pled for full funding and reauthorization of the LWCF before next summer.
Not only has the chronic underfunding of the LWCF undermined Congress’ original desire for an annual fund of $900 million, but without reauthorization, the fund will disappear next summer. The LWCF does not use taxpayer dollars but rather uses revenue from offshore oil and gas development, making it an asset-for-asset investment – a fund that uses one natural resource to help protect another. The fund has been critical for better management of federally owned lands, access to rivers and waterways, and boosting outdoor recreation. The outdoor recreation industry is essential and benefits local economies and local jobs across the nation. With over $640 billion in spending every year and supporting 6.1 million direct jobs across the country, investing in outdoor recreation is not only smart on a local level – it’s smart for our entire nation.
Your elected leaders need to hear from you to know that outdoor recreation, access to outdoor spaces, and our public lands are important to you. Click here to send a message to your member of Congress to tell them you support the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
(Photograph by Silvia)