Support LWCF reauthorization
To the editor,
At the end of this month, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is set to expire, unless reauthorized by Congress. Established in 1964 through a bipartisan act of Congress, the LWCF uses royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf to conserve important natural resources and expand public lands access. Funding comes from a maximum of $900 million in royalty payments collected annually from oil and gas companies, not from taxpayer dollars.
The LWCF enables sportsmen access to millions of acres of public lands – and has expanded access to millions more – all while strengthening quality habitat for fish and game. Colorado has received more than $230 million in LWCF funding for 974 projects. Those grants typically are matched by an equal amount of state or local funding, thus doubling the federal investment. The Ophir Valley of the Uncompahgre National Forest, Great Sand Dunes National Park, the wildlife refuge complex of the San Luis Valley ecosystem, and the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument are past beneficiaries of LWCF matching contributions in our state.
Studies have found that every dollar invested in land acquisition or improvement generated a $4 return on the investment for communities. And U.S. sportsmen comprise a powerful economic engine, annually contributing close to $90 billion to the nation’s economy and supporting 1.5 million jobs. The broader outdoor recreation and conservation economy is responsible for more than $600 billion in consumer spending every year.
Recently, LWCF funds have been used to acquire the 11,179-acre Devil’s Canyon Ranch in Wyoming, a premier hunting area with important herds of bighorn sheep, mule deer and elk; to protect the working forests around Wisconsin’s Chippewa Flowage, one of that state’s most pristine lakes and best trophy fisheries; to secure habit in the Dakota grasslands for more than 100 breeding birds, including 12 waterfowl species – a region that has been described as America’s “duck factory;” to protect the confluence of the Ohio and Tradewater Rivers in Kentucky – an action that is providing significant watershed and water quality improvement to the benefit of public hunting and fishing.
According to report from the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation, lack of public access is the number one reason why sportsmen quit hunting. A loss of federal LWCF funding for public access easements and public land acquisition will only further this problem. And as rural lands across the country continue to disappear, public access to federal lands will become increasingly important. LWCF funds play a vital role in “unlocking” millions of federal acres currently unavailable to sportsmen. LWCF is essential to make public lands public by securing recreation access, particularly where opportunities for sportsmen and others to access public lands are limited or precluded.
As explained by Backcountry Hunters & Angler’s President and CEO, Land Tawney: “LWCF is the best tool available to provide access for hunters and anglers, as well as habitat conservation to make sure sportsmen have something to chase once we get there. The program invests in the conservation of fish and wildlife habitat and enhances recreational access, which means more rewarding days afield for America’s hunters and anglers.”
For additional information on how LWCF funds have benefited Coloradans, see: www.lwcfcoalition.org/co lorado.html.
– David Lien, chairman, Colorado Backcountry
Hunters & Anglers
September 29, 2015
Colorado Department of Natural Resources
1313 Sherman Street
Denver, Colorado 80203
Dear Director King:
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is a grass roots organization, dedicated to preserving the privilege and tradition of hunting and fishing, and protecting the lands and environment that support those activities. Central to our efforts is the agency that manages the big game herds and fisheries, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
As you’re aware, wildlife and outdoor recreation represent an important part of Colorado’s economy and quality of life, accounting for an estimated $34.5 billion in total economic significance. Hunting, angling, wildlife viewing and state park visitation contributes roughly $6.1 billion in economic effects statewide. And CPW plays a vital role in maintaining these important economic drivers for our state.
However, by statute, CPW receives no funding from General Fund monies, and must rely on user fees to support all its programs. Also by statute, those user fees can only be adjusted by legislative approval, a process that is unwieldy at best, and cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, keep up with inflation or increasing population pressures. The only way CPW can maintain spending power is by cutting programs and employees, and delaying or ignoring routine replacement of necessary equipment.
Under the current system, since 1965, resident hunting and fishing fees have increased at only half the rate of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). A resident elk tag cost $10 in 1965. Fifty years later, a resident elk tag is $45. In the same 50-year period, the CPI rose 8.8 times, meaning a $10 purchase would now be $88. This disconnect between current fees and actual financial needs is slowly strangling the agency, and by proxy, the wildlife resources it is tasked to protect.
The Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers offer our support for the Department of Natural Resources to lobby for legislation to authorize the Parks and Wildlife Commission to set hunting and license fees. The commission already has the authorization to do just that for parks, and it follows that it should be the same for hunting and fishing fees. We would also support a fee increase that is linked to the CPI, thus keeping CPW finances in line with inflation.
Colorado is blessed to have some of the largest big game herds and world-renowned fisheries in the nation. The annual income to the state from fish and game resources now approaches that of our ski industry. It behooves us to appropriately fund the agency that keeps those herds and fisheries healthy in the face of increasing population pressure and the accompanying loss of habitat. We urge you to support draft legislation that grants the Wildlife Commission the authority to set all user fees in the future, and keep CPW funded to achieve its mission, now and in the future.
Please call on us for any assistance we may provide for this effort.
Colorado Parks & Wildlife Liaison,
Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
The Sportsman's Voice for Our Wild Public Lands, Waters and Wildlife
David A. Lien
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
The Sportsman's Voice for Our Wild Public Lands, Waters and Wildlife
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Recently, The Denver Post opted to do away with its Outdoors pages, and by extension, Scott Willoughby’s position as Outdoors writer, photographer and columnist. Scott was the recipient of BHA’s Ted Trueblood Award at the National Rendezvous in Denver during March 2014.
The Ted Trueblood Award is given to a person working in the media world whose efforts have made a significant contributions towards promoting BHA core values of protecting wildlands and habitat, promoting responsible and scientifically based wildlife management, and promoting the values and benefits of backcountry hunting and fishing in a fair-chase manner.