Today, during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich continued his fight to permanently authorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
Senator Heinrich is an original cosponsor of, S. 890, a bill to permanently authorize and fully fund the LWCF, which was established in 1965 and is set to expire in September. Using revenues from offshore oil and gas development, the LWCF provides funding for additions to national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and other federal public lands, making it the principal source of funds for federal acquisition of lands for outdoor recreation, habitat preservation and protection of special natural, cultural, and historic resources. The program also provides matching grants to states and localities for in outdoor recreation facilities such as parks and playing fields, as well as grants to state forestry and state game and fish departments to fund conservation easements on working landscapes and restore wildlife habitat.
In his opening statement, Senator Heinrich discussed the value of investing revenues from oil and gas reserves in permanent conservation assets.
In the hearing, Senator Heinrich also emphasized LWCF’s role in protecting national forests that protect drinking water supplies, mentioning Taos County as an example.
Senator Heinrich also stressed LWCF’s impact on the outdoor recreation economy. In New Mexico, outdoor recreation activities generates $6.1 billion annually in consumer spending and is directly responsible for 68,000 jobs.
LWCF has tremendous local and small business support. Today, 62 of New Mexico businesses wrote a letter backing full funding and permanent authorization of LWCF.
LWCF, which is not funded by tax dollars but instead by a fraction of the revenue the federal government receives from off-shore oil and gas drilling revenues, has helped protect public lands in New Mexico, including the Valles Caldera National Preserve and the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge.
Other public lands that LWCF has helped protect include:
- Aztec Ruins National Monument;
- Bandelier National Monument;
- Gila National Forest;
- Rio Chama Wild and Scenic River; and
- Santa Fe National Forest.