WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Senate passed a public lands package today that permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a historically bipartisan program that has funded projects in all 50 states since its inception in 1965. The program, which expired last September, has supported everything from the expansion and maintenance of local parks and recreation centers to national forests, national parks and historical sites.
“Our country’s most successful conservation and recreation program has been on life support since it expired in September,” said Erik DuMont, public lands campaign director for Environment America. “Thankfully we’re seeing movement on this now, and we applaud the Senate for getting the job done and not letting it fall through the cracks.”
Since LWCF funding expired, public lands projects have lost more than $300 million in revenue. While the Senate bill that passed today permanently renews the program, it does not fully fund it at the $900 million a year authorized in the original LWCF bill.
During the months since the program expired, a broad group of conservation and environmental groups pushed Congress to act. On the first day of the World Series, Environment America handed out baseball cookies to remind members of Congress of all the local baseball fields funded by LWCF. After the midterm elections, the group gave every member of Congress a “#SaveLWCF” rubber duck to keep the program front of mind during the lame-duck session. In key states, Environment America affiliates PennEnvironment and Environment Colorado, placed billboards by main roads, urging Congress to reauthorize LWCF. Other conservation groups also took action.
“To maintain America the Beautiful, we need to protect our public lands, and the Senate took a big step toward doing so,” said DuMont. “Now the House must act. We’re confident it will, but not so confident that we’ll stop pushing.”
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Environment America is the national federation of statewide, citizen-based advocacy organizations working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.
For a list of projects funded by LWCF, go to https://www.lwcfcoalition.com/.