The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has helped support and secure the United States’ wildlife heritage since 1964 by supporting Montana hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreation, according to a new report today from the National Wildlife Federation. LWCF, however, is at risk of expiring unless Congress acts by the end of September to reauthorize and fully fund this critical conservation program.
According to the new report, two football fields’ worth of natural areas in the West have been disappearing every 5 minutes. The Land and Water Conservation Fund helps solve this problem by buying and protecting land for Americans to use for hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and simply enjoying being in nature. These public spaces are then available for people to hike, camp, hunt, fish and enjoy being in nature.
“As America’s population grows, we need to grow our protected places and parks with it. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been critical to securing the special places that hunters, anglers, and others count on to recreate and safeguard our wildlife heritage for future generations. This report vividly highlights how this is all at stake unless Congress acts within the next two weeks,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime — it’s paid for by fees that are collected on offshore energy development. It should be a no-brainer for Congress to reauthorize and fully fund this amazing program so that all of their constituents will continue to benefit from it,” Stone-Manning continued.
Outdoor writer Hal Herring, who lives in Augusta, imagined the loss Americans would experience as a future without the Land and Water Conservation Fund: “The end of the LWCF will be the end of an era in the U.S., an era in which the common citizens have come to expect a higher quality of life, cleaner waters for swimming, open spaces for running and playing with their children, the ability to hold on to traditions like hunting and fishing, hiking, wandering and camping, experiencing the true freedom of our birthright as Americans.”
Senator Jon Tester and Senator Steve Daines are both cosponsors of legislation to reauthorize and fully fund LWCF. Representative Greg Gianforte is on record supporting permanent authorization for the program.
“The bipartisan support for LWCF across Montana’s congressional delegation shows how important this program is to Montana’s outdoor way of life,” said Montana Wildlife Federation executive Director Dave Chadwick “We hope our leaders can get this program fully funded before it expires. Our outdoor heritage is too important to be left up to partisan politics in Washington, DC.”
The new report outlines the projects that The Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested in that benefit sportsmen and wildlife by increasing access to hunting and fishing grounds and connects wildlife migration corridors so there are more continuous wilderness across America. The Land and Water Conservation Fund utilizes fees on oil and gas revenues from the outer continental shelf and has zero cost to taxpayers.
LWCF is personal to all of us who hunt, fish, hike, and camp on Montana’s public lands. HR 502 was passed by the House of Representatives Natural Resource Committee. HR 502 DOES permanently reauthorize LWCF, but the bill does NOT authorize a specific funding level. There is more work to do. Sign a letter to Montana’s congressional delegation today asking them to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.