The US is about to lose one of its most successful public land access programs in history – the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Whether it’s for hunting, fishing, or other recreational activities, the LWCF has opened millions of acres to outdoor lovers across the country for the past 54 years. That will end when it expires this Sunday, September 30, 2018. Why? Because congressional and senate leaders simply haven’t gotten around to putting Bill HR502 on the floor to vote.
The LWCF provides $900 million dollars in funding to conservation and wildlife habitat projects across the country – and $0 is taxpayer funded. The funding comes from the off-shore oil and gas royalties received by the federal government. It is the use of a non-renewable resource to conserve another resource, namely water and land.
The bipartisan LWCF legislation was originally passed in 1964. It has funded more than 40,000 conservation projects throughout all 50 states, protecting 2,300,000 acres of forest. The goals of the LWCF are to protect critical drinking water sources, preserve wildlife habitat and provide access to open lands for recreation.
“It is the number one access tool in this country,” says Land Tawney, President/CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, an enthusiastic proponent of HR502. “The number one reason why sportsman and women stop hunting and fishing is because of access. Without the LWCF I don’t know where our hunting and fishing heritage would be today.”
In Montana alone, 70% of fishing access sites are paid for by the LWCF. Most recently, the fund secured land that came up for sale at the entrance of Grand Teton, preventing potential development. It also paid for access to hunting and fishing areas in Montana by protecting privately owned “checkerboard” lands along the boundaries of national forests. In terms of economic benefits, every $1 of Land and Water Conservation Fund money invested creates $4 in economic value. And the recreational land access the fund provides to Americans across the country supports an $887 billion outdoor recreation economy.
Future opportunities like these will be lost this Sunday if Congress allows the fund to expire. If the LWCF is not renewed numerous projects will fall by the wayside. One such project is the planned acquisition of private holdings inside Wisconsin’s Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest that would provide guaranteed access for hunting for grouse and woodcock, fishing, camping and canoeing. Another is the acquisition of 22,890 acres of private land in the Kootznoowoo Wilderness Area of the Admiralty Island National Monument in Alaska that would ensure cohesive wildlife management in the area.
A new bi-partisan bill co-sponsored by 236 lawmakers on Capitol Hill would amend the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 to make its authorization permanent. Bill HR502 would also require that no less than 1.5% of the annual funding amount or $10 million, whichever is greater, will be used for projects that secure recreational access to existing federal public land for hunting, fishing and other recreational purposes. The permanent renewal of the LWCF would provide secure funding and instill confidence in private landowners seeking conservation easements to conserve their lands long after their deaths.
HR502 was introduced on January 12, 2017; yet, it has not been brought to the floor for a vote by congressional leaders. Contact your senators and representatives of Congress TODAY and tell them to move this bill forward. It’s easy. Just click on the link below and follow the prompts. For five minutes of your time, you could guarantee a future of public access to great lands in your state and across the country today into the future.