The Wilderness Society is pleased to offer the following assets to press covering LWCF reauthorization. Please credit The Wilderness Society all uses of these materials.
LWCF in New Mexico
LWCF in Idaho
LWCF in Colorado
LWCF in West Virginia
LWCF in Arizona
Secretary Jewell on LWCF
Background press materials
Endangered: America’s most effective conservation program
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is perhaps the most effective and popular conservation program in the United States – but also one of the least appreciated.
Yet the Conservation Fund expired on Sept. 30.
Created in 1965, the Conservation Fund helps Americans in virtually every county in the U.S. to enjoy the great outdoors on the public lands that they own and find places for recreation. Funded by federal oil royalties from offshore drilling in public waters, this program invests in local parks and rec centers and as well as important conservation investments in national parks that reduce management costs.
Since it was created in 1965, this program has enjoyed bipartisan support. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) have introduced a bill, S. 569, to permanently reauthorize the program and provide full, dedicated funding. The House Natural Resources Committee recently approved permanent reauthorization.
The current threat
Trump’s Interior Secretary Zinke proposed in his FY2019 budget to cut that program’s funding by at least 95 percent, which disappoints both the Republican and Democratic senators from Zinke’s home state of Montana.
Zinke presents a false choice. He suggests that LWCF funding must be cut in order to pay down the national park maintenance backlog. This ignores the reality that the funding often improves the cost-effectiveness of park management by purchasing privately owned parcels of land from willing sellers within or adjoining national parks. Those purchases also reduce the expense of fighting wildfires on public lands – a process that prioritizes protection of private property located in national parks and forests. Fires burned through more than half of the of U.S. Forest Service budget last year.
Congress and the administration need to reauthorize and fully fund the program.
What the fund conserves
The conservation fund is the only federal program dedicated to the continued conservation of our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, ball fields, Civil War battlefields and state and local parks at no cost to taxpayers. Its funds derive from offshore energy royalties, ensuring that as one natural resource is drawn down, others are conserved for the future. This time-tested promise to the American people must remain intact so that funds derived from oil and gas royalties will continue to be reinvested into public lands owned by all Americans.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is locally-driven, bottom-up conservation:
The Conservation Fund is a locally-driven tool that meets the changing needs of communities of different shapes, sizes and geographies across the country. Since its inception in 1965, roughly $16 billion dollars—all generated from royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling—have gone to conservation and outdoor recreation in America.
The Fund allows states to make targeted investments to meet specific conservation and recreation needs as they arise.
The Fund is a major economic driver for communities across America:
Outdoor recreation contributes $887 billion annually to the U.S. economy, supporting 7.6 million American jobs and stimulating eight percent of all consumer spending.
Every $1.00 invested in the Fund returns $4.00 dollars in economic value from natural resource goods and services, alone. National parks support nearly $27 billion in economic activity annually and nearly a quarter million private-sector jobs.
The Fund opens up to public lands to its owners – the American people:
Seven out of 10 sportsmen and women use public lands for fishing, hunting and enjoying the outdoors. Yet, millions of acres of national public lands remain inaccessible due to private lands blocking the way or a simple lack of parking or connecting road.
The Conservation Fund helps get kids outdoors:
Through investments in national as well as local parks and rec centers, the Conservation Fund has created opportunities for millions of children and adults to get outdoors for exercise and fresh air. Getting families outside reduces the immense time currently devoted to computer screens, and this boosts health and fitness.
The Fund is one of America’s best ideas—protecting parks and other public land:
Failure to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund or to weakening this landmark conservation law would unravel decades of progress protecting America’s irreplaceable natural, historic and cultural resources.
More than half of the Fund’s intended dollars—$20 billion in total—already have been diverted to other purposes over the program’s 54-year history, and for years Congress has diverted funds for non-conservation related spending.
The Fund saves taxpayer money:
The Conservation Fund consolidates federal land units resulting in better fire prevention at lower cost to the government. The Fund is the primary federal tool to pursue strategic land purchases in and adjacent to public lands to shift private development away from the most fire-prone areas. This is an essential tool to prevent forest fires and reduce the cost of fighting them.
Spokesperson Quotes – September 2018
Land and Water Conservation Fund
James Baird, Tucson, AZ, Outdoor Personal Trainer and Teacher
“I spent my childhood in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands playing in parks and backyard jungles. When I moved to the states as a teen I found that I didn’t want an indoor life. I wanted to be outside where I could continue to stay active and socialize with like-minded people. When I became certified as a personal trainer, I knew that I didn’t want to teach people in gyms. They are very artificial environments that represent the opposite of the holistic approach to staying fit and active that I want to impart to others. I know that many of the city parks that I work out in were funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. These parks give me the adult-size playground equipment that I need to maintain my outdoor lifestyle and to bring the benefits of a lifetime involvement in outdoor activities to the people I teach.”
Matthew Nelson, Tucson, AZ, Executive Director, Arizona Trail Association
“The Arizona Trail, which stretches from the Arizona-Mexico to the Utah border was designated under the National Scenic Trail Act of 1968 and mostly completed in 2011. It’s among the most biodiverse trails among the 11 in the National Scenic Trail system, winding from desert terrain to high ponderosa forests. We are counting on the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help us move the trail off of a 15-mile stretch of paved and dirt road in southern Arizona. The Arizona Trail Association has identified six parcels of private land that we would need to connect it to national forest access and put in our application for a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant. Without the Fund, we simply will not have the resources to do this.”
Judy Weiss, Arizona Parks and Recreation Professional
“The very first Land and Water Conservation Fund project in the Phoenix area was South Mountain
Park, which at 16,000 acres is the largest mountain preserve park in the nation. Because most of South Mountain was preserved under the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the program has had a big impact on the approximately 40,000-acre Phoenix Mountain Preserve system. Without this program and without Congress’ support of having open space and parks available to citizens in perpetuity, it would be a sad day. I believe this as someone who has been involved in the parks and recreation profession for a long time, but also as someone who lives here and who visits parks everywhere I go. These parks are part of the fabric of our society and quality of life.”
Johnny Spillane, Steamboat Springs, CO, Owner, Steamboat Flyfisher
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has done so much to protect areas around Steamboat Springs and the state—not only to protect them but to improve them. Thanks to the Fund, we have an amazing asset just outside of Steamboat. Where in the past, there were different patches of private land mixed in with public lands along the Yampa River, we now have this continuous section of river that’s just incredible. It’s a special place that opens the whole wilderness area for the general public to use. From a business standpoint, having this property in such good shape now really helps our clientele. It gives them another place to go fishing, both on guided trips or on their own. We are able to provide our clientele with a fantastic place to go fishing all because the Funds helped purchase a great property.”
Dave Dudley, Pueblo, CO, General Manager, Runyon Sports Complex
“We are looking at around 170 teams that play at the Runyon Sports Complex and if you multiply that by 14 kids a team, you can get a grasp on how many kids play here. In the summer there’s not that many things for kids to do in this town, which may be why we have so many baseball teams. Our ballpark gives people a sense of community. As far as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we have been able to get different grants for things. The latest grant was used to build a small field with turf replacing the gravel for our little guys so that they can go forth and develop confidence and good habits. That field was always my dream because we had that little piece of land just sitting there doing nothing.”
Merrill Beyeler, Leadore, ID, Rancher & Chairman, Lemhi Region Land Trust
“Our family were some of the first settlers in the Lemhi Valley in 1856, and five generations of us have been on the land ranching. We know how important the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been not only for public recreation, but for ranchers that rely on those lands to move their cattle into grazing areas. In an area that’s 92 percent public lands you would think, ‘Why in the heck do we need land and water conservation funding’? There are plenty of reasons and one of the big challenges we face where we have vast tracts of public lands is access—and if you don’t have access to these public lands, what do you have? Access to public lands is one of the biggest economic drivers in the State of Idaho. It's what attracts new talent and new businesses to our state. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is an important part of making sure those things remain.”
Tim Murphy, Boise, ID, Retired, State Director, Bureau of Land Management
“From my perspective, throughout my career at the BLM, whenever the Land and Water Conservation Fund could work as a platform for folks to collaborate and negotiate and come up with feasible options that allow land to stay in agriculture, that's a win-win for the environment, for the local social and cultural network, and for local economies. There are many aspects of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but its ability to support open space by keeping private land in agriculture in this beautiful state is a key and big reason for the LWCF to be renewed. Permanent reauthorization of the Fund would allow not only short-term opportunities that come up to preserve lands, it allows people to form long-term collaborative groups and apply funds in meaningful ways when the timing is right in the future. When we maintain open space that involves working landscapes we provide a tremendous opportunity for recreationists, wildlife, and for those who just want to know that in America there are places that remain healthy and open. In Idaho, the Land and Water Conservation Fund can greatly assist us in continuing this tradition.”
Tom Tidwell, McCall, ID, Former Chief, U.S. Forest Service
“The real beauty of the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the way that it helps everyone— not only through acquiring parcels of private land within national forests and our national parks and making them accessible to the public, but also how it provides grant funding to states and communities for local outdoor projects. Another way that the Fund benefits Americans is when a family that, for whatever reason, may be faced with selling a working ranch to developers. Instead, the program can provide these families with the option of a conservation easement that gives them adequate funds to help them keep their property whole and be able to stay on their family ranch. That benefits all of us today and for the future. Every Land and Water Conservation Fund project that I have worked on during my career with the Forest Service has saved the public money. The question should not be whether the Fund is reauthorized, but how much more can we put into this valuable program that touches virtually every community in America.”
Dennis Montoya, Las Cruces, NM, Executive Director, New Mexico League of United Latin American Citizens
“Land and water conservation are fundamental to our community, to our heritage, to our culture. Although it’s popular to think of Latinos as only an immigrant community, we are not. We have been in the United States since before there was a United States and the conservation of land and water resources is fundamental to our existence, our identity, and our culture. We will always be involved in these issues. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has supported places along the Rio Grande, which is the lifeline of our communities in New Mexico. Every time a resource like the Fund disappears, the burden increases on other organizations that are not necessarily as able to support land and water conservation issues.”
Scot Faulkner, Harpers Ferry, WV—Author; Founder of Friends of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park; former Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives; and Reagan Administration FAA, GSA and Peace Corps official
“I have always been a history buff and moved to Harpers Ferry from the D.C. area for the beauty and history of the area. Harpers Ferry clearly has been a huge beneficiary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, helping the national park double in size from the 1980s to 2004. Had it not been for this Fund, much of these historic battlefield would have been converted into housing subdivisions and all of this history would have been gone. Saving these battlefields was a collaborative effort of many diverse people and organizations. The NAACP and the Sons of the Confederate Veterans sat at the same table to work out solutions. This land is sacred to these groups and Native Americans as well. The last thing anyone wanted to see was hundreds of houses built on this site. Thanks to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we were able to prevent that. I am a lifelong Conservative who understands that America is different from other countries based on our ideals and our core history. How do you make the next generation understand this? You need physical evidence that reminds us why we became who we are as Americans. If you don’t have places like Harpers Ferry you lose this reality. It is our patriotic duty to make sure that these physical touchstones exist.”
Rhea Mitchell, Fayetteville, WV, Founder, Fayetteville Chapter of Virginians for Public Lands; employee, Water Stone Outdoors
“I moved to West Virginia a year ago from northern Pennsylvania in search of a balance between work and play. I’ve always been interested in public lands and environmental work and when I found out that the New River Gorge and the Gauley River Recreation areas around me were funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund I asked myself ‘how I can I get involved’. One thing led to another and we opened a chapter of West Virginians for Public Lands here in Fayetteville. We are working to change the narrative of West Virginia as a splendid little gem of a place and to change the focus on where our money comes from. The Fund helps the economy directly through tourism. The New River Gorge and Gauley rivers provide some of the best whitewater recreation in the country. Without LWCF programs that have made this area more accessible, we wouldn’t have the quality of life we have now. It’s a sustainable way to bring people to West Virginia to enjoy all the special public places this state has to offer.”