Senator Graham Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Renew and Improve Landmark Conservation Program
Fifty years to the day after President John F. Kennedy sent the original Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) bill to Congress, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today proposed legislation that would fully realize that program’s promise to conserve parks, open spaces, and wildlife habitat for the benefit of hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation.
Washington, D.C. | February 15, 2013
The legislation, titled the “Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act of 2013," is supported by a broad coalition of conservation and recreation organizations and outdoor industry businesses. It was introduced with 6 additional cosponsors: U.S. Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Richard Burr (R-NC), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Udall (D-CO), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Tom Udall (D-NM).
By fully and permanently funding LWCF at its authorized level of $900 million per year, the legislation would foster federal, state, and local conservation investments that boost tourism, expand recreation spending, protect water quality, insulate communities from natural hazards, sustain agriculture and forestry on private lands, provide habitat for fish and wildlife, and improve the quality of life that draws businesses and workers to communities. LWCF is also essential to make public lands public by securing recreation access, particularly where opportunities for sportsmen and others to access public lands are currently limited or precluded.
Last year, 76 U.S. Senators voted in favor of a provision in the Transportation Bill to reauthorize and strengthen LWCF, reflecting a fast-growing and bipartisan consensus that the federal revenues deposited into LWCF should be invested as intended for the benefit of local communities, hunters and anglers, and families.
Rather than using taxpayer money, LWCF receives a small portion – $900 million each year – of the billions of dollars in annual oil and gas revenues from federal waters. Since the program’s enactment in 1965, however, Congress has often diverted the money for other purposes; only once in the history of the fund has all the money gone for the original intent of the LWCF. Over $17 billion that was slated to be used on conservation has been redirected to other purposes. This diversion continues despite significant increases in the energy revenues the federal government collects.
Since President Kennedy proposed the program’s creation on Valentine’s Day 1963, LWCF has helped protect land at some of America’s most iconic and popular places, including our national parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges, where millions of Americans recreate. The program also includes grants to support state and local parks for conserving and developing close-to-home recreation areas and grants for forests and wildlife protection – which create jobs and help communities to attract and keep employers.
“South Carolina has received about $200 million over the past 40 years from LWCF to help protect its natural areas, such as the ACE Basin in the Lowcountry, Congaree National Park in the Midlands, and Jones Gap State Park in the Upstate. If funded at $900 million a year, LWCF can help ensure for many years to come our coveted quality of life -- from the water we drink to our enjoyment of the great outdoors,” said Mark Robertson, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina.
A study released today by Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) documents the economic impact of outdoor recreation at the state level, which builds upon a national study released by OIA in 2012 that found that outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse in the United States, each year generating $646 billion in consumer spending, 6.1 million direct jobs and $80 billion in local, state and federal tax revenue.
In South Carolina, outdoor recreation generates…
• $18 billion in consumer spending
• 201,000 direct South Carolina jobs
• $4.7 billion in wages and salaries
• $1 billion in state and local tax revenue
(Note: the state and national studies can be downloaded at outdoorindustry.org/recreationeconomy).
“Outdoor recreation is good for the American economy and our future,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of OIA. “When we invest in the nation’s network of public lands and waters, we are protecting and enhancing outdoor experiences for the benefit of the thousands of businesses, communities and families whose livelihoods depends on the outdoor recreation economy.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.