Congress must act on bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, writes Mitch Friedman, founder and executive director of Conservation Northwest.
One of our nation’s most successful and common-sense conservation programs has expired after 54 years — a tragic mistake that must be corrected immediately. As one of the most unsung yet important programs in our country, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has quietly transformed local communities by funding important outdoor recreation projects in nearly every county across America.
Here in Washington, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped fund and protect parts of Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks, the Pacific Crest Trail, Ebey’s Landing, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and the Columbia River Gorge. It’s been a critical tool for connecting the habitats of Washington’s North and South Cascades across the Interstate 90 corridor.
This fund isn’t limited to protecting wild lands, but also helps at the state and local levels, from new boat ramps and ball fields to places like Seattle’s Gas Works Park and Spokane’s Riverside Park.
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Our U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell has been a tireless champion working to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but sadly, partisan gridlock in the other Washington is prevailing, and time is running out.
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Established by Congress in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund provides funding to increase outdoor-recreation opportunities and access to public lands, improve local parks, restore rivers and watersheds, promote healthy forests and protect critical wildlife habitat. None of these projects cost the American taxpayer a dime, since funds are derived from offshore oil and gas royalties.
With such far-reaching impact and strong bipartisan support, it’s difficult to convey just how vital the Land and Water Conservation Fund is to our communities. If you have ever hiked a trail to cascading waterfalls in our national parks, fished for trout or steelhead in our Northwest rivers, or enjoyed your city parks, you are likely a beneficiary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
A program with such far reach deserves to continue not just for its value to recreation and wildlife, but also for its economic impacts. The outdoor-recreation industry has quietly become an enormous economic engine, contributing $887 billion to the American economy in 2017. In Washington, this translates into $26.2 billion in consumer spending and more than 200,000 jobs.
The outdoor industry is a huge economic driver and engine for our nation and state, comparable to the aerospace or information-technology industries, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund is critical fuel for that engine.
The good news isit’s not too late to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund if Congress acts now. Sen. Cantwell has earned our appreciation with her crucial leadership in support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. But more must be done to succeed in D.C.
This is why we are calling on both Republicans and Democrats in Washington’s delegation and across the country to pass bipartisan legislation to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund this session.
Please phone your members of Congress (you can find them here) and ask them to actively work to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund now! It’s time for this Congress to move past the partisan divide and move America forward by accomplishing a common-sense, bipartisan solution that will benefit the Northwest’s natural heritage and the millions of people who enjoy it, now and into the future.