LWCF Lives

The $1.1 trillion spending bill passed last week and signed into law by President Obama on Saturday has some big wins for the outdoor industry, including the reauthorization of the expired Land and Water Conservation Fund.

By Jessica Wahl December 16, 2015

The $1.1 trillion spending bill (omnibus) agreement reached late last week by Congress and President Obama has some big wins for the outdoor industry, including the reauthorization of the expired Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a six percent boost for conservation programs and an average of 10 percent increase in funding for our public lands.

With a deal reached by leadership in October that increased the federal budget above sequester levels for the next two years, the land management agencies received funding increases that we have been pushing for in last night’s deal:

  • Bureau of Land Management receives a $117 million increase.
  • Fish and Wildlife Service will see a $69 million increase.
  • Forest Service will get a $35 million increase over 2015.
  • National Park Service will celebrate its Centennial year with a $237 million funding increase.

The package also lacks bad policy riders that target clean water, wildlife and the President’s Clean Power Plan.

The big win for the outdoor industry is the extension of LWCF for three years and an increase of $150 million in appropriated dollars for 2016, bringing it up to $450 million. OIA has been pushing for full funding and permanent reauthorization but when Congress let the 50 year old fund expire in September, it was a huge blow to this successful and bipartisan program. Now, we are able to focus on full funding and permanent reauthorization for LWCF projects that are critical for outdoor recreation and don’t cost taxpayers a dime.

The industry’s work on this was critical. From Travis Campbell, OIA board vice chair, testifying before Congress on the fund, to our Capitol Summit attendees lobbying last April, to the countless emails and phone calls to leadership, op-eds in local papers and national publications and impromptu fly-ins, the outdoor industry showed up and it counted.

Unfortunately, Congress missed a key opportunity to fix the significant problem of wildfire funding, preventing the practice of borrowing from Interior and Forest Service accounts and recreation programs in years of severe wildfire. Unfortunately, while a widely supported, bipartisan solution existed, it was opposed by several members and some environmental groups who objected to anything but a “clean” funding fix. OIA will continue to work on wildfire budget reform in 2016.

The agreement reached by Congress and the White House has been many months in the making and will likely get passed into law early next week. Thank you for your work on these important issues. It has been a busy year with our public lands better funded and protected as we enter the New Year.