Yesterday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall welcomed growing support to permanently authorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which conserves and promotes public access to the country’s national parks, forests and public lands, and also funds state and local conservation grants. The program is set to expire in September of this year, and Udall has introduced legislation to find a permanent solution for the LWCF.
The LWCF has helped create and protect urban parks and open spaces that enhance recreation and outdoor opportunities in urban and rural communities alike, such as Valle de Oro in Bernalillo County and Valles Caldera National Preserve. It’s funded through revenues from federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf and does not use taxpayer dollars. Udall’s bill ensures the LWCF can continue to access this dedicated funding.
A hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today highlighted how the LWCF has invested in local communities for more than 50 years. More than $261 million has been spent in New Mexico since 1965 to protect natural resources and provide recreational opportunities, including over $41 million for state and local grants, and 62 New Mexico businesses called on Congress to fully fund the LWCF.
“For every $1 invested, the Land and Water Conservation Fund brings in $4 for local communities. Bernalillo County used the LWCF to complete Valle de Oro — the first urban wildlife refuge in the Southwest — just last year, and it’s quickly become a treasured place that will inspire generations to come,” Udall said. “The LWCF works for communities nationwide, and it needs to be reauthorized and fully funded so it can meet its full potential. I’m pleased to see growing support for this pragmatic program, especially from the dozens of New Mexico businesses that came together in support of full funding today. Together, we’ll make sure the LWCF continues to strengthen our communities well into the future.”
“We hope Congress gets the message and sees that LWCF has broad support from businesses from all across New Mexico. This is not just a conservation issue, it’s an economic issue as thousands of American jobs and businesses are supported by this great program,” said Carrie Hamblen, Executive Director of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce.
“Unfortunately, there are some in Congress who just don’t get it and would let LWCF expire,” said Glenn Schiffbauer, Executive Director of the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce. “LWCF has benefitted our country and New Mexico in immeasurable ways. If you take your kids to recreate in a local park or national forest in New Mexico, there’s a good chance LWCF helped make that opportunity possible. Thankfully, New Mexico has strong champions for LWCF in Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.”