Dear Congressman DeFazio:
As a lifetime member of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and an Oregonian I’m writing to you regarding one of the cornerstones of our national conservation policy. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers was formed here in Oregon ten years ago. Today, we have members in all 50 states and our chapters cover 97% of all public lands in the U.S. Our mission is simple. We proactively protect our wild public lands, waters, and wildlife to hand down an American heritage to the next generation. As such, we are strong supporters of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and one of hundreds of members of the LWCF Coalition.
We also want to thank you for your strong support of LWCF over the years. Your support of full and permanent funding of this conservation tool, now in its 50th year, is greatly appreciated. In those years, Oregon conservation projects have received nearly $300 million from LWCF to help preserve countless acres of public lands and hundreds of miles of rivers and streams, creating recreational opportunities for sportsmen. This has also helped fuel a growing and robust recreational economy which now generates nearly $13 billion dollars in annual consumer spending in Oregon and employs approximately 141,000 Oregonians, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. This, in turn, results in billions of tax dollars helping fuel much needed public services such as police, fire, and education.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is concerned about an idea in a recent E&E article regarding the potential use of LWCF dollars for maintenance costs. LWCF was established as a lasting on-shore conservation offset as we sell our nation’s offshore oil and gas resources. While we agree that Congress needs to provide operating funds that agencies such as the National Park Service need, using LWCF funds for maintenance undermines the asset-for-asset principle of LWCF. We would be mortgaging our conservation future to pay other bills and we feel this would create a dangerous precedent. If that line is crossed, backlog maintenance needs within NPS and other agencies could easily absorb all LWCF funding leaving nothing for conservation. The temptation to transfer LWCF funds for this purpose is great, but if that door is opened, we doubt it would ever close.
It is also worth noting that bipartisan polls confirm that more than four-in-five American voters would prefer that the nation continues to invest offshore drilling royalties in LWCF for conservation needs. Our nation has a strong passion for the conservation of our public lands. America is the envy of the world when it comes to the principle that our vast national treasures and public lands belong to everyone.
We urge you to reject robbing Peter to pay Paul – an approach that will sacrifice the conservation and outdoor recreation needs of sportsmen and other outdoor recreational users. For us, there is no higher calling than protecting our public lands for future generations and keeping LWCF intact for the purpose it was created is the right thing to do.
Again, thank you for your on-going support of LWCF and for supporting conservation efforts here in Oregon and nationally.
Brian Jennings, Sportsmen’s Outreach Coordinator – Oregon
PO Box 9040
Bend, Oregon 97708