Some of my favorite traditions involve spending time outside with my family in the great outdoors. We make annual trips to places all over the state. We love to chase elusive trout in pristine streams and lakes, pursue squirrels in the Ponderosa pines, and listen to bugling elk serenade us to sleep. Spending that time with my family, especially my children, has shaped who I am and who my children will become.
Hunting and fishing are American traditions that often are passed down from generation to generation. These activities help to bond families, neighbors and communities in the shared experience that comes from enjoying the great outdoors. I came late to this tradition, starting to hunt and fish more actively in my early 30s. I hope someday to pass these traditions on to my children and grandchildren.
During my journey, I have found that responsible hunters and anglers know that in order for these pastimes to have a future, we must conserve important areas of habitat and ensure funding is available to secure public access to public lands for all Americans. One important tool we have for achieving these goals is the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund helps ensure future generations of Americans will have the same opportunities to enjoy our nation’s outdoors that we cherish today. LWCF achieves this by funding projects that protect public lands, waters and wildlife and that expand public access. It has funded numerous open spaces and parks in urban areas; in Arizona examples of these spaces can be found from Reid Park in Tucson to the Goodyear Community Park and Thorpe Park Ballfield in Flagstaff. However, in spite of its success, LWCF has been underfunded for years and now is threatened like never before.
Sportsmen and sportswomen understand the value of investing in conservation and safeguarding special habitats and outdoor spaces. No better tool exists than LWCF for accomplishing this. That is why we urge Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and other lawmakers to provide full and dedicated annual funding for LWCF.
Congress already has taken a great first step to advance conservation and establish publicly accessible recreation sites by permanently reauthorizing LWCF. I thank Sens. McSally and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ) for supporting LWCF’s permanent authorization. Without secure funding, however, the program could languish. That funding comes from offshore energy development at no cost to American taxpayers, and the dollars invested provide a 4:1 return. Put simply: funding LWCF is a no brainer.
LWCF has successfully supported tens of thousands of parks and outdoor recreation projects in every congressional district across the country – and it fuels the fast-growing $887 billion-dollar annual outdoor recreation economy. Arizona is no stranger to this billion-dollar business because active outdoor recreation is an important part of our economy. The Outdoor Industry Association has found that active outdoor recreation generates $21.2 billion annually in consumer spending in Arizona, supports 201,000 jobs across the state generating $5.7 billion in wages and salaries, and produces $1.4 billion annually in state and local tax revenue. More than 40,000 projects have been completed over LWCF’s 50 plus year history, including, for example, the conservation of 2.3 million acres of national forest land. Right here in Arizona, LWCF has provided funding to help protect some of our most special places such as the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the Coconino National Forest, the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.
Our public lands, wildlife and waters form the heart of communities across the country – the places where families and neighbors create memories and traditions. LWCF-funded projects are investments in our future that will help fuel the memories and traditions created by future generations of outdoor enthusiasts.
My family has benefitted from these investments in our future through the lands that they have preserved. We created traditions on these lands such as cutting down the perfect Christmas tree with the family or exploring to find old cabins and hidden treasures. I have taken my children to these public lands and watched them grow up. My son was too young to crawl the first time I took him on an adventure in the Coconino National Forest. My daughter jumps at the chance to disconnect and leave her technology behind in order to go camping. I look forward to making these same memories and creating new traditions with my grandchildren on these public lands someday. The LWCF and the funding it provides helps to ensure millions of Americans have those opportunities today and those same opportunities are preserved for future generations.
I want to thank Sen. McSally for supporting full and dedicated funding for LWCF in committee and ask for her continuing efforts to fight for the program.The program has consistently drawn strong bipartisan support in Congress. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a massive benefit to American communities, for ours and generations to come.
Colin Chadwick grew up on public lands and still spends the majority of his free time there. He enjoys hunting, fishing and exploring with his family.