Created by Congress 50 year ago, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a bipartisan commitment to safeguard our sporting heritage by conserving lands with high wildlife habitat value, important water resources that support healthy fisheries, and secure access for recreational opportunities like hunting and fishing that fuel a $646-billion outdoor recreation economy.
By utilizing revenues from the depletion of one natural resource - offshore oil and gas - to support the conservation of another precious resource - our land and water, LWCF doesn’t burden tax payers to make critical investments in partnership with state and local efforts to bolster America's national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, national trails, and BLM areas. Here's just a small taste of what some of these LWCF-funded Bureau of Land Management projects and Fish & Wildlife Service projects look like.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the four House leaders of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, Reps. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Gene Green (D-Texas), and Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), introduced the bipartisan “Sportsmen’s Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act,” or SCORE Act, in the 114th Congress. Combined with the previously introduced SHARE Act (HR 2406), these bills constitute a major victory for fish and wildlife habitat, and improved access for America’s hunters and anglers.
Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.), all past chairs of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, are also supporting SCORE.
“The sportsmen’s community can stand squarely behind this bill as a great step forward in protecting our ability to fund and implement the conservation of at-risk habitats, species, and access,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It’s a great example of bipartisan legislation that addresses the needs of America’s hunters and anglers, and we’d like to see a lot more of that consensus.”
The bill contains seven provisions to reauthorize or implement legislation that helps fund conservation programs on federal and private lands, which boosts sportsmen’s access to quality hunting and fishing, including reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA). Prior to its expiration in 2011, FLTFA had leveraged strategic federal land sales to fund 39 priority conservation projects, including many that expanded sportsmen’s access to world-class hunting and fishing opportunities.
Interior Appropriations: The Interior Appropriations process appears to be going nowhere and is beginning to crumble under the weight of several anti-conservation measures like Texas Representative Ted Poe’s amendment that would force the Bureau of Land Management to study the possibility of selling our public lands. While another “Continuing Resolution” to fund the federal government is likely again this year, it’s worth noting that Representative Jared Polis of Colorado was joined by Montana Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke in driving a counter amendment to Poe’s that would prohibit the use of funds in the appropriations bill to sell federal public lands in contravention of existing land sale authorities under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
Here’s a few tips to keep in mind as you meet with your Senators and Representatives:
Today the four House leaders of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, Reps. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Gene Green (D-Texas), and Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), introduced the new bipartisan “Sportsmen’s Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act,” or SCORE Act. This bill is purely about securing greater resources and certainty for fish and wildlife and enhancing access and opportunities America’s hunters and anglers. It contains seven provisions to reauthorize or implement legislation that helps fund conservation programs on federal and private lands, which boosts sportsmen’s access to quality hunting and fishing.
One of BHA’s biggest priorities also included in the bill packages is a provision referred to as Making Public Lands Public. It requires that 1.5 percent of annual Land and Water Conservation Funds be made available to acquire and improve recreational access to existing federal lands.
Other provisions include reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA), North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. FLTFA has leveraged strategic federal land transactions to expand access for hunters and anglers and establish habitat connectivity to benefit fish and wildlife species. NAWCA and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act provide matched dollar incentives for grant programs that provide habitat conservation investments on the ground that improve wetlands, migratory bird species like waterfowl, and other fish and wildlife. Each federal dollar invested in these grant programs is matched, on average, three times over by non-federal dollars that directly benefit habitat.
The SCORE Act also includes a “Sense of Congress” that supports implementing language for a bill introduced in the previous Congress called the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act. This legislation facilitates strategic partnerships that foster significant improvements to fisheries habitat and opportunities for anglers while supporting the economic values for recreational, commercial, and subsistence fishing.
BHA applauds the leadership of Representatives Walz, Wittman, Green, and Duncan. We encourage sportsmen and women in every state to contact their member of Congress to support the SCORE Act.
With less than 100 days left until the LWCF program expires at the end of Septembers, BHA staff, chapters, and members around the country are working to educate the public, the hunting and fishing community, and strategic decision-makers about the importance of conservation funding to provide public access to recreational opportunities and healthy habitat to support robust populations of fish and wildlife. Many of us hunt and fish on our through lands supported by LWCF and it’s a successful program that we need Congress to permanently reauthorize. John Sullivan, co-chair of BHA’s Montana chapter, said it best when Montana Senator Steve Daines recently joined Senator Tester (MT) and a bipartisan legion of their colleagues in support of Senator Burr’s (NC) legislation, S. 338 , that permanently reauthorizes LWCF, “Public lands – and the ability of citizens to access and enjoy them – are a defining element of our identity as Montanans.
LWCF remains one of the best tools available to conserve important public lands and waters – and not only provides access for hunters and anglers; it also helps guarantee that we’ll have something to chase once we get there. American sportsmen – in Montana and across the country – stand firm in urging Congress to permanently reauthorize the LWCF and to fully fund this crucial conservation tool in the years ahead. We thank Senator Daines for listening to Montana sportsmen and other outdoors users, and we commend his decision to join Senator Tester in calling for the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”