It is fashionable nowadays to blast off shore resource extraction companies for the multitude of environmental issues, and in certain instances they have sole ownership of that (Deepwater Horizon anyone?). It is said they are out to only gain a profit while negating environmental issues. Well one way they have a positive impact is the money they provide to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The fund is up to expire at the end of this month, so I figured I should go into why it is important and why it should be supported.
For almost 50 years, the LWCF has been the most important funding source for conservation in the United States. The energy companies that participate in resource extraction in the Outer Continental Shelf pay royalties to the federal government for the rights to conduct their extraction. The government then takes those funds and reinvests them in conservation of our public lands. This totals about 900 million dollars for conservation a year. Since it’s inception in 1965, the LWCF has protected nearly 5 million acres of public land and has funded nearly 41,000 state and local park projects. The fund has protected land in nearly 98% of counties in the United States.
Tourist traffic to areas such as the one pictured no doubt has a positive economic and social impact on the local area. Without LWCF money there would be no traffic.
In addition to the protection of public land, the LWCF money also revitalizes local economies. Local businesses in areas that have public lands receive $730 billion annually nationwide due to tourist visiting to take part in outdoor recreation on these lands. 6.5 million jobs are generated as a result of this, which equates to 1 out of every 20 jobs in the US. Additionally, for every dollar of LWCF money invested, there is a four dollar return. Simply put, the money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund does way more than protect public lands.
Even though $900 million is authorized for the LWCF, Congress routinely diverts this money elsewhere at their behest. This in turn leads to inadequate funding of vital conservation programs. Congress has a bad habit of diverting funds earmarked for one thing and used for another. As important as this money is there shouldn’t be any diverting of funds.
Since it’s inception in 1965, congress has authorized the LWCF for two 25 year terms, which expired in 2015. Congress then extended it for another three years, and it is set to expire on September 30 2018. If it expires, and the funds stop, this will have a severe adverse effect on public lands and our ability to recreate on OUR lands. Contrary to what has been said, these lands truly belong to the people, and if the funding stops, that $900 million annually will be gone, and with it begins the process of losing our lands.
I urge all hunters, hell all people who enjoy public lands, to contact your congressional representative and urge them to vote for full and permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. If you enjoy public lands, not just those you can hunt or fish on, but National Parks as well you should take the refusal to reauthorize it as an offense. Hell if you enjoy clean water and fresh air, you need to be supportive of this fund. Take the time to contact your congressional representative and tell them to vote in support of the LWCF. Let them know also that these funds should never be diverted for other uses. They work for you, make sure you let them know your stance.