Cantwell Legislation to Fully Fund LWCF Passes Committee

Bill would guarantee $900 million in funding for LWCF each year; Cantwell’s legislation to permanently reauthorize the fund was signed into law in March; Popular conservation program does not use taxpayer dollars

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) passed the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on a bipartisan 13-7 vote. The legislation would ensure the LWCF receives the full $900 million authorized to it each year and could help fund a number of important projects across Washington state. 

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a key tool that supports outdoor recreation in the Pacific Northwest,” Senator Cantwell said. “So many parts of our state have benefited from the LWCF. Public lands are important to our nation, and the outdoor economy is a true winner for all of us.” 

Earlier this year, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Cantwell to permanently reauthorize the LWCF was signed into law, but its expenditures continue to be subject to annual federal appropriations. This has resulted in a shortfall of over $22 billion over the past few decades – funding that could have been used to create or expand public lands to support hunting, fishing, and hiking opportunities treasured by countless Americans. 

The Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act passed today would remove the requirement that LWCF funds be subject to the uncertainty of the annual appropriations process and, for the first time, require the program be fully funded at the authorized level of $900 million per year. LWCF is funded using a small portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas royalty payments and does not use any taxpayer dollars. 

Fully funding the LWCF could ensure a number of priority projects throughout Washington state receive funding, including Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Clark County, Willapa Wildlife Refuge in Pacific County, the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park in Pacific County, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and DeWatto Headwaters Forest. 

Since its creation, the LWCF has supported more than 42,000 state and local projects in communities across the country and more than 600 projects in Washington state. It helps support Washington state’s robust outdoor recreation economy, which is responsible for 201,000 direct jobs, $26.2 billion in annual consumer spending, and $7.6 billion in wages and salaries. Thousands of Washingtonians have benefited from access to trails and outdoor recreation opportunities, as well as clean air and water preservation, which would not have been possible without the conservation funding provided by the LWCF. 

The legislation will now move on to the full Senate for consideration.