The popular conservation program commonly known as LWCF could be reauthorized this week, says MeatEater Conservation Director Ryan Callaghan, if sportsmen and women call their representatives and throw their weight behind the agreement currently before Congress.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established in 1964 to invest royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling into America’s public lands and waters. From inner-city playgrounds and bike paths to river access sites and wilderness trailheads, money from the fund has improved outdoor opportunities of citizens of nearly every county in the United States.
Originally authorized for 50 years at up to $900 million per year, LWCF has only received that full amount twice and it was allowed to expire in 2015 after enjoying half a century of bipartisan support. Congress gave it a three-year lifeline, but America’s most popular conservation program sunset again this September. Currently, an estimated $2.5 million in royalties every day that should have been earmarked for conservation are instead being diverted into the general fund. A recent study commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation found that 74 percent of Americans want to see the fund reauthorized.
A bill to permanently reauthorize and fully fund LWCF has passed out of committee in the Senate. The House Natural Resources Committee also passed a version that would provide permanently authorization but not full funding, meaning that the amount of money available for projects every year would be subject to annual appropriation by Congress.
Led by Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Jon Tester (D-MT) there was a strong, bipartisan push to pass LWCF reauthorization as a rider to larger omnibus spending legislation in the lame duck session of the 115th Congress, that period after the midterm election and before the new Congress is seated in January. This effort has stalled in the face of battles over spending levels and the president’s request of $5 billion to fund a wall on the Mexican border, but there still may be an opportunity for LWCF this week before Congress goes on recess.
Callaghan implores all sportsmen to take action at this critical moment in LWCF’s future.
“This is a buck-stops-here moment. Call your elected officials in the House and Senate and tell them to authorize and fully fund LWCF right now,” Callaghan said. “Just speak from the heart and talk about some LWCF projects near you.
“These five minutes of your time could provide access, open space and outdoor opportunity for generations to come. LWCF is one of the few tools we have to provide excellent outdoor opportunity for our growing population both in cities and rural America. The clock is ticking yet again.”
Feature image by John Hafner.