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Dysfunction in Washington has claimed another victim. On Sept. 30, Congress allowed America’s most important conservation program to expire, putting our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and outdoor recreation areas at risk.
For 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has kept a simple promise to the American people: when we allow offshore drilling for oil and gas on the lands and waters that belong to all of us, we have set aside a small portion of the proceeds to protect America’s greatest places. When lawmakers refused to renew the fund at the end of September, that link between resource extraction and investment in the parks and outdoor places that make America great disappeared.
This is of particular concern to hunters, anglers and anyone who enjoys the great outdoors. The fund was the best tool we had to provide and improve access to public lands. The best game lands and national forests we protected as a nation could now be locked away behind private tracts of land.
The most ingenious aspect of the Land and Water Conservation Fund is that it did not use any taxpayer money — zip, zero, nada. Oil extraction profits from offshore drilling funded it — that’s why it was so popular with the American people and also why anti-conservation politicians are so eager to get their hands on it.
This small but influential group of politicians stalled and ran out the clock on the fund this year. They are now scheming to raid the fund and spend what should be dedicated conservation dollars on special interest projects.
What is so frustrating is that this is an entirely manufactured crisis. If leadership in Washington allowed a straight up or down vote, renewing the fund would sail through the House and Senate with large bipartisan majorities – something you rarely see in Washington these days. The program would then be permanently authorized.
Outdoorsmen and women from across the country are fighting back against this brazen assault on America’s greatest places. Hunters, anglers, the outdoor recreation industry, governors, mayors, outdoor business owners, conservation leaders, landowners, ranchers, farmers and millions of individuals are united in the push for permanent reauthorization and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund because it protects and strengthens the lands that belong to all of us.
We are emboldened by bipartisan conservation champions like Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Steve Daines (R-MT) Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Jon Tester (D-MT), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), among others, who are fighting every day for our shared outdoor heritage.
We must not allow a small group of ideological politicians to raid the trust fund and we will not rest until Congress listens to the will of the people and saves America’s most important conservation program.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition is the umbrella organization of more than 1,000 of the most influential national, state and local conservation and recreation organizations working to save and strengthen America’s most important conservation program. Find out more about or advocacy at LWCFcoalition.org and @LWCFCoalition. ♦