Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. National parks like Rocky Mountain, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers and lakes, community parks, trails, and ball fields in every one of our 50 states were set aside for Americans to enjoy thanks to federal funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund1.
It was a simple idea: use revenues from the depletion of one natural resource – offshore oil and gas – to support the conservation of another precious resource – our land and water. Every year, $900 million in royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) are put into this fund. The money is intended to create and protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.
Yet, nearly every year, Congress breaks its own promise to the American people and diverts much of this funding to uses other than conserving our most important lands and waters. But his year is different. This year the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies propose no money for the LWCF in their budget. Zero, nada, nothing.
Not only has this committee zeroed out funding for the LWCF, it has also zeroed out funding for another important conservation program, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). Chief Conservation Officer for Ducks Unlimited, Paul Schmidt, said “Wetlands protected and conserved by these programs do so much more than provide waterfowl and wildlife habitat. They lessen the effects of floods and hurricanes, prevent soil erosion and improve water quality.” NAWCA has translated more than $1 billion in federal appropriations over the life of the program into nearly $3.5 billion in additional economic activity, thus creating nearly 7,500 new jobs, according to Ducks Unlimited.
Outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse in the United States, each year generating $646 billion in consumer spending and 6.1 million direct jobs2. You can see the specific figures on what outdoor recreation generates for the economy of your home state at the Outdoor Industry Association’s website.
For a group of congressmen and women, who continuously complain about the lack of job growth, to cut funding for these programs is ludicrous. Fortunately, the House bill might not get far. The Senate’s 2014 budget, authored by Budget chairwoman Patty Murray, includes full funding of $900 million for the LWCF and President Barack Obama’s budget went even further to propose a slight increase.
You can read more about this House of Representatives Appropriations Committee debacle in these links:
- Outdoor Groups Endorse Senate Effort to Restore Alloted $900M to Conservation Fund
- House Panel Axes Popular Land Acquisition Program
- House Panel Plunders Funds from National Parks
- Proposed House Budget Cuts Have Sportsmen Groups Concerned
- Interior Appropriations Bill Limits EPA, Conservation Spending
- Top Ten Ways House of Representatives Environmental Spending Bill Would Ruin Your Summer