November 18, 2015

Udall, Heinrich Urge LWCF Reauthorization, Funding Before Year Ends

Senate leaders should include reauthorization, full funding in must-pass bill

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and a bipartisan coalition of 12 other senators sent a letter asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to include the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) along with full mandatory funding in one of the bills Congress must pass before adjourning for the year.

"The LWCF is funded with offshore oil royalties and was designed not to use taxpayer dollars. However, since the creation of LWCF in 1965, more than $18 billion has been taken from the LWCF trust fund and diverted from its original conservation purpose. Because authorization for the LWCF expired on September 30th, offshore oil royalties are no longer being directed into the fund and there is no longer any guarantee that Congress will provide it the necessary funds," the lawmakers wrote to Sens. McConnell and Reid.

"For the economy, sportsmen, veterans, wildlife, and our kids and grandkids, we must permanently reauthorize LWCF - it is America's most successful conservation program. We also strongly request that you include mandatory full funding in any must-pass year end legislation," they added.

Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vermont), Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kelly A. Ayotte (R-N.H.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) also signed the letter.

Full text of the letter follows:

November 18, 2015

Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Reid:

We write to request that you permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund ("LWCF") and provide it with full mandatory funding in one of the bills that Congress must pass before the end of the session. As you know, this critical initiative has been expired since the end of September.

The LWCF is one of the country's best conservation programs, preserving public lands in rural and urban areas. For the last 50 years, it has protected lands, historic sites, national parks, wilderness areas, and urban parks in every state. LWCF has supported more than 41,000 state and local projects. It is critical to protecting natural resource lands and working forests, providing outdoor recreation opportunities and hunting and fishing access, ensuring wildlife habitat, creating urban parks, and protecting our cultural heritage. Continued investments in this program help our nation's outdoor recreation, conservation, and preservation businesses, which support millions of American jobs and contribute billions of dollars annually to the economy.

The LWCF is funded with offshore oil royalties and was designed not to use taxpayer dollars. However, since the creation of LWCF in 1965, more than $18 billion has been taken from the LWCF trust fund and diverted from its original conservation purpose. Because authorization for the LWCF expired on September 30th, offshore oil royalties are no longer being directed into the fund and there is no longer any guarantee that Congress will provide it the necessary funds.

For the economy, sportsmen, veterans, wildlife, and our kids and grandkids, we must permanently reauthorize LWCF - it is America's most successful conservation program. We also strongly request that you include mandatory full funding in any must-pass year end legislation. We look forward to working with you to resolve this pressing issue.