The Sportsman Channel’s Randy Newberg Notes, “LWCF has been a Great Tool for Securing Places to Hunt and Fish for Sportsmen”
Washington, D.C. – Today, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) joined Randy Newberg, host of The Sportsman Channel’s “Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg,” to discuss the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to sportsmen. Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) served as a host of the event. Co-sponsored by the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Trout Unlimited and National Wildlife Federation, the event showcased several projects that have benefitted from the use of Land and Water Conservation Funds for public access to hunting and fishing.
Created by Congress 50 years ago, the Land and Water Conservation Fund uses revenues from oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) – instead of taxpayer dollars – to conserve important natural resources. Since 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been one of the most successful federal conservation endeavors – protecting American history and heritage, as well as conserving public land and clean water for recreation and wildlife habitat, and supporting the hunting, fishing and larger $646-billion outdoor recreation economy.
“Over its 50 year history, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped fund over 40,000 local conservation and outdoor recreation projects by re-investing a small portion of revenue from offshore oil and gas development in waters owned by the American people,” Secretary Jewell said. “These local projects – parks, ball fields, hunting and fishing access points and other open spaces – play an important role in preserving and protecting natural areas for future generations of Americans to enjoy. Congress needs to fulfill the promise made to the American people by enacting full and permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”
Earlier this month, Secretary Jewell embarked on a series of events across the country to highlight the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s successes on its 50th anniversary.
Over the years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been used to create new wildlife refuges, sustain working lands, purchase private in-holdings within otherwise contiguous blocks of public backcountry habitat, and provide public access to otherwise inaccessible public lands and waters.
“LWCF has been a great tool for securing places to hunt and fish for sportsmen,” Mr. Newberg said. “In my back yard of Bozeman, Montana, the Gallatin National Forest has had over 200,000 acres of access acquired or improved by LWCF. All who hunt and fish can probably find a similar LWCF story in their back yard.”
Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars have also been leveraged with state, local and private dollars to create close-to-home recreational opportunities and help conserve habitat through voluntary easements.
“For 50 years the Land and Water Conservation Fund has improved access to public lands while preserving some of our nation’s most treasured landscapes and creating jobs, “ said Senator Tester. “Congress must provide greater support for the Fund to ensure future generations of sportsmen and women enjoy the same hunting and fishing opportunities that we do today.”
While the Land and Water Conservation Fund has played a vital role in boosting local economies in every state, it is set to expire without action from Congress.
"The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a truly unique federal program that is proven to boost local economies, increase tourism, and protect our nation’s precious natural resources, yet does not rely on taxpayer dollars,” Senator Wyden said. “On its 50th anniversary, it’s time for Congress to reaffirm its commitment to this valuable program and push for full, consistent funding to preserve special places in Oregon and across America."
Originally authorized by Congress to receive $900 million annually in OCS revenues, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been chronically underfunded. In fact, more than $17 billion over the last five decades has been spent elsewhere. Throughout its existence, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has received full funding only once and in recent years, has declined to approximately one-third of its authorized funding level.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund needs to be reauthorized before September of 2015. Now is the time to reauthorize and fully fund this important program for America’s hunters and anglers. Sportsmen depend on the public hunting and fishing access and quality fishing and wildlife habitat that the Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided for generations.
Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Egbert