Jul 21, 2010

House Committee Passes Bill Securing Funding for Land and Water Conservation Fund

Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) joined recreation and conservation organizations from across the country in thanking the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee for passing legislation today that will provide dedicated funding for land conservation and outdoor recreation. Under the leadership of Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV), the committee approved the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009 (CLEAR Act, HR 3534) and included a provision that would annually fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at its authorized level of $900 million.  At that level, the program would be able to proactively address backlogged conservation and recreation needs at the local, state and federal level. Weakening amendments were decisively rejected thanks to the efforts of Chairman Rahall and the support of many conservation leaders on the committee.

“OIA greatly appreciates today’s committee action to fully fund LWCF, Chairman Rahall’s leadership on this issue and the support of so many members on the House Natural Resources Committee,” said Amy Roberts, Vice President of Government Affairs for OIA. “We, along with many of our colleagues in the recreation and conservation community, have been fighting for years for full funding of this important program, its investment in close-to-home recreation and the goal of reconnecting Americans with our nation’s land and water.”

LWCF is supposed to receive $900 million per year – a drop in the bucket of offshore revenues that typically tally over $5 billion – but each year Congress, has diverted much of the LWCF revenue to other purposes. Full funding has been appropriated only once in the 45-year history of the LWCF, and recently declined to a low of $138 million in 2007. This shortfall has resulted in a land protection and outdoor recreation backlog of unmet funding needs across our National Forests, Fish and Wildlife Refuges, National Parks and other public lands, federal public lands, and state and local parks.

In spite of rarely receiving its due, LWCF has been instrumental in many of the places that are most dear to us as a nation. From local parks and playgrounds, where kids can get outside to play, to greenbelts and recreational trails that connect and enhance local communities, to state parks that provide hiking, biking, and camping and help to sustain wildlife, to federal public lands used for hunting, fishing, paddling, and our most pristine national parks, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas – LWCF has provided a continuum of conservation that has touched all Americans.