August 15, 2016

Udall, Heinrich Push for Increased Public Access to Outdoor Recreation Opportunities

Call for permanent reauthorization of Land and Water Conservation Fund

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced they are urging the leaders of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as negotiations take place between the Senate and the House to forge a compromise on the Energy Policy Modernization Act. The Senate version of the energy reform bill included language to permanently reauthorize the LWCF. In a letter, Udall, lead Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, and Heinrich, a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, urged committee leaders to ensure the provision is included in the final compromise legislation. 

Udall and Heinrich have long advocated for the permanent reauthorization and full funding of the LWCF. The innovative conservation initiative has helped to preserve public lands, create and expand city parks, and provide access to outdoor recreation in New Mexico and across the nation. Studies show the LWCF also benefits the economy — for every $1 invested, local communities see a $4 return.

In their letter to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and lead Democrat Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Udall, Heinrich, and U.S. Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) highlighted the importance of the LWCF to preserving the nation's outdoor heritage. They urged their colleagues to advocate for the permanent reauthorization provision, as well as mandatory full funding for the initiative. 

“For the last 50 years, LWCF has been one of our nation’s most successful conservation tools. LWCF has supported projects that increase opportunities for hunting, fishing, and other forms of outdoor recreation in every state in the nation,” the senators wrote. “From increasing access to our public lands for hunting, fishing, and recreation to funding urban parks to protecting our cultural heritage, LWCF strengthens our economy and enhances quality of life in our communities.” 

“Despite high profile attempts to transfer federal lands to states, we firmly believe that keeping public lands in public hands is key to maintaining our western way of life,” the senators added.                                         

A copy of the letter is available below and here.

The Honorable Lisa Murkowski
Chairman
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
304 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Maria Cantwell
Ranking Member
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
304 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell:

As you begin negotiations with the House on the energy bill, we urge you to maintain key provisions from the Senate bill to preserve our outdoor heritage, including the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). We applaud the Energy and Natural Resources Committee's efforts to negotiate Section 5002 of the Senate bill. Without a doubt, the permanent reauthorization of LWCF contributed to the broad, bipartisan vote on passage of S. 2012, and we strongly support maintaining that provision in any final bill. We respectfully urge you to advocate for this provision as well as mandatory, full-funding for this important initiative.

For the last 50 years, LWCF has been one of our nation's most successful conservation tools. LWCF has supported projects that increase opportunities for hunting, fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation in every state in the nation. LWCF also partners with private landowners to keep working lands working while protecting wildlife habitat, watersheds and wide open spaces. From increasing access to our public lands for hunting, fishing, and recreation to funding urban parks to protecting our cultural heritage, LWCF strengthens our economy and enhances quality of life in our communities.

Furthermore, as Senators representing western states with significant amounts of public lands, we will not support efforts to weaken LWCF. This fund is a valuable tool for federal land managers to acquire inholdings and other high priority lands for recreation and conservation purposes. Our national forests, national parks, and other public lands are significant economic drivers. Acquisitions and easements funded through LWCF increase access to our public lands, reduce management costs, support key fish and wildlife habitat, and provide new opportunities for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation. Despite high-profile attempts to transfer federal lands to states, we firmly believe that keeping public lands in public hands is key to maintaining our western way of life.

In addition to permanent reauthorization, we need to move toward fulfilling LWCF's promise of using $900 million annually from offshore energy development to fund lasting conservation projects nationwide. Since it was established in 1965, more than $20 billion of the funds set aside for LWCF has not been spent on conservation. It is time that we provide full, mandatory funding for LWCF. We look forward to working with you to that end.

We appreciate your consideration and look forward to working with you toward permanent reauthorization of LWCF.