Fifty years to the day after President John F. Kennedy sent the original Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) bill to Congress, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) 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.
“Full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund is a common-sense and critical way to help conserve the beautiful resources Oregon depends upon for its economy and the way of life we all enjoy as its citizens,” said Liz Bergeron, Executive Director and CEO of the Pacific Crest Trail Association. “Active outdoor recreation in Oregon contributes $12.8 billion annually to the state’s economy, supporting 141,000 jobs in the state. We thank Oregon’s own Senator Wyden and the other sponsors of this bill for standing up for the spectacular natural resources we all need for strong communities and want future generations to enjoy.”
The legislation, S.338, 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), Mark Udall (D-CO), Jon Tester (D-MT), 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.
“The Nature Conservancy is grateful to Senator Wyden for co-reintroducing legislation that will fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” says Russ Hoeflich, the Conservancy in Oregon’s state director. “Not only does the program protect life’s necessities such as clean water, it ensures beautiful places will be here for generations to come and supports local livelihoods. This legislation is good for people, places, communities and our future.”
“Outdoor recreation, and more specifically salmon and steelhead fishing, represent a key part of the Northwest’s heritage and economy. We appreciate the Senator’s effort to ensure that the Land and Water Conservation Fund will continue to protect fishing access and conserve fish habitat,” said Russell Bassett, Executive Director, Association of Northwest Steelheaders.
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. In Oregon, LWCF has protected many key public lands including Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Pacific Crest Trail, and Rogue Wild and Scenic River.
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.
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 Oregon, outdoor recreation generates:
(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 LWCF Coalition comprises conservation, recreation, business, and sportsmen’s groups working together to support the LWCF program in order to meet America’s conservation and recreation needs in the 21st century. For more information on LWCF and the places in each state that have been protected using LWCF funds, visit www.lwcfcoalition.org.
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.
The Nature Conservancy in Oregon