LWCF expired at the end of September due to Congress’ inability to bring the program to a full floor vote – bipartisan bills both passed out of committees in the House and Senate. The 54-year-old program, which is funded through offshore oil and gas royalties at no cost to taxpayers, has provided more than $18 billion in support of more than 42,000 parks and recreation projects across the country.
“Despite the program’s popularity, its demonstrated impact and its bipartisan support – Republicans and Democrats expressed their support for dedicated full funding and permanent reauthorization – by not taking action Congress is jeopardizing the future of many of our nation’s special and revered public lands, as well as tens of thousands of local parks and facilities throughout America,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “Congress needs to correct this mistake and save LWCF.”
For over half a century, LWCF has served to protect America’s greatest treasures: from national parks of outstanding beauty such as the Grand Canyon and Grand Teton, to historic sites embodying our nation’s past such as the San Antonio Missions, the Gettysburg Battlefield and Monroe Elementary School in Kansas— the school attended by Linda Brown, of Brown v. Board of Education. LWCF has successfully safeguarded countless acres of natural resources, enhanced access to public lands, preserved our historical legacy, and even supported local economies by boosting tourism. To this day, LWCF has helped protect more than 100 national battlefields in 42 states and protected more than 2.2 million acres of national parks.
“For many Latinos and other diverse urban communities, sites funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund often provide their only means to experience the outdoors,” said Chela Garcia, HAF’s director of conservation programs. “From having places to connect with nature, spend time with family, enjoy outdoor recreation or explore their cultural heritage, LWCF isn’t just about protecting pieces of land or providing specific resources for development, it’s about the connection we have with these places and what they represent for each individual. These sites matter to people – and the loss of the program would be felt for generations to come.”
Created in 1964 with strong bipartisan support, the program came up for its initial reauthorization in 2015 but was allowed to expire. Two months later Congress reauthorized LWCF for three years as part of the Omnibus Appropriations bill. Yet, the lack of a long-term solution creates an unstable funding future for parks and projects, which also hinders the investment of private dollars in new projects. Full dedicated funding and permanent reauthorization would end the political gamesmanship and fulfill the bipartisan promise of LWCF.
“More than 50 years ago, Congress created the fund as a bipartisan promise to safeguard this country’s natural areas, water resources cultural heritage and economies,” said Arce. “Now is the time for Congress to set aside politics again and stand up for the vast majority of Americans and all our diverse communities who agree that the Land and Water Conservation Fund is essential to protecting the places we love and the way of life future generations deserve. It’s time for LWCF to be permanently reauthorized and fully funded.”
HAF’s ads will initially appear in today’s The Hill, Washington Post Express and Washington Hispanic.