With the expiration of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) fast approaching, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich joined a bipartisan coalition of 51 other senators to call on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid to permanently reauthorize and adequately fund the nation’s premier federal conservation program, now in its 50th year. The LWCF has helped create and protect parks and open spaces that enhance recreation and outdoor opportunities in urban and rural communities alike, such as the Valle de Oro in Bernalillo County and Valles Caldera National Preserve.
“Investments in LWCF support public land conservation and ensure access to the outdoors for all Americans, in communities and cities alike,” the senators wrote. “It has created outdoor recreation opportunities in every state and 98 percent of counties across the country, opening up key areas for hunting, fishing and other recreational access; supporting working forests and ranches; acquiring inholdings and protecting critical lands in national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, Civil War battlefields and other federal areas; and making additions and improvements to state and local parks and recreation facilities.”
The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1964 established one of America’s most successful conservation programs. Authorization for the program expires on Sept. 30, threatening the continuation of LWCF’s long and successful history. Using funds primarily derived from oil and gas receipts paid to the federal government by energy companies that extract publicly owned resources, the program supports the nation’s land, water, historic and recreational heritage. The program also supports America’s outdoor recreation, conservation and preservation economies, which contribute more than $1 trillion to the nation’s economy each year and support 9.4 million American jobs. More than $261 million has been spent in New Mexico since 1965 to protect natural resources and provide recreational opportunities, including more than $41 million for state and local grants.
Udall and Heinrich have worked to permanently fund LWCF to conserve and promote public access to the country’s national parks, forests and public lands. In their request, the senators note that adequate and consistent funding will help ensure that the fund plays the strongest possible role in revitalizing local communities while having the greatest conservation impact across the country.
In addition to Udall and Heinrich, the following senators signed the letter: Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Susan M. Collins (R-Maine), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), James E. Risch (R-Idaho), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).