Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, as well as 20 other senators introduced bipartisan legislation to permanently authorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which conserves and promotes access to America’s national parks, forests and public lands.
After expiring for the first time in 50 years, Congress voted in December 2015 to extend the program’s authorization for only three years.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has proven to be a spectacular investment for the places that make this country special, for the people who benefit from access to those places for hunting, fishing and camping, and for the local communities that host these truly remarkable resources,” Wyden said. “Fully funding this program will allow communities across the country to continue protecting our nation’s public lands and providing access for the outdoor activities Americans enjoy.”
“Growing up in Oregon, I couldn’t imagine life without access to camping, hiking, fishing and more,” Merkley said. “The projects made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund have impacted countless lives, and we owe it to future generations to pay it forward by fully funding and making permanent this essential program. Public lands that are open and accessible to all are a key part of our recreation economy, and even more importantly, of who we are as Americans. We must keep working together to preserve special places and promote recreation opportunities. This bipartisan bill is a great example of how we can do just that.”
Outdoor recreation drives economic growth, creates jobs and produces significant revenues for local communities. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the key federal investment in a sector that has supported more than 6 million American jobs and contributes $600 billion annually to our nation’s economy.
The LWCF, established in 1965, funds the purchase and development of parks, wildlife refuges and recreation resources of federal, state, and local lands and facilities. The program provides funding for additions to national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and other federal public lands used for outdoor recreation and habitat preservation.
The LWCF also funds important projects that protect drinking water resources, sensitive habitat for fish and wildlife, and private forestland. The state component of the program provides matching grants to states and localities for investments in outdoor recreation facilities, such as parks and playfields.
In addition to Wyden and Merkley, original co-sponsors of the bill include Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Robert Casey, D-Pa., Chris Coons, D-Del., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Al Franken ,D-Minn., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Jon Tester, D-Mont.