Cantwell Moves America’s Most Important Conservation Program through the Senate; LWCF Closer to being Permanently Reauthorized

Cantwell: House of Representatives needs to act to save LWCF

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the former Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, secured Senate passage of the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund – the most important conservation program in the United States – as part of a larger public lands package. 

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been a pre-eminent program for access to public lands,” Cantwell said. “It gives local communities the tools and resources to manage public lands, to give more access to the American people, to do the things that will help us grow jobs and preserve against a very challenging and threatening climate.” 

The Land and Water Conservation Fund expired on September 30th, 2018, marking the second time in three years that Congress failed to reauthorize and fund the program. The program is a key component of the nation’s robust outdoor recreation economy, which generates over $887 billion in annual consumer spending and supports 7.6 million American jobs. In Washington state alone, the outdoor recreation economy contributes over $26 billion in consumer spending each and supports over 200,000 direct jobs. 

Since its creation, LWCF has supported more than 42,000 state and local projects in communities across the country and more than 600 projects in Washington state, including popular recreation sites such as Olympic National Park, Lake Chelan, and Riverside State Park. Thousands of Washingtonians have benefitted from access to trails and outdoor recreation opportunities, as well as clean air and water preservation that would not have been possible without the conservation funding provided by the LWCF.

“Public lands are important to our nation. They’re important for recreating, for hunting, for fishing, for moving forward on access to these lands that are important for our veterans, for our school children, for those who just may want to go out and access the outdoors and reconnect,” Cantwell said. “This legislation we passed today is a recognition that our climate is changing and that we need new tools – and to carry out new responsibilities – as it relates to managing those public lands.”

With Senate passage secured, the legislation now moves on to the House of Representatives, which is expected to quickly take up and pass it.

A one-pager with more information on the Senate’s public lands package is available HERE.

Here’s what conservation and outdoor leaders from around Washington had to say about Senator Cantwell’s legislation: 

  • “I had the opportunity to hear Sen. Cantwell speak on behalf of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in Seattle's Greenlake Park last fall. She truly understands the importance of helping protect Washington's most cherished landscapes and providing access to the great outdoors in all its forms," said Nick Norton, the Executive Director for the Washington Association of Land Trusts. "The positive impacts of LWCF can be felt in every part of our state, from urban parks to some of our wildest places. Sen. Cantwell's vision, leadership, and coalition-building in support of permanent reauthorization is a critical piece of this important legacy we will leave for future generations."
  • “This bill is proof our elected officials can work together across political divides. The country needs to protect our cherished natural places, and people need to see our leaders and the outdoor community working together. For those of us who love the outdoors, we are especially appreciative that stalwarts in the Senate from both parties, especially Senators Cantwell and Murkowski, have prioritized this legislative package and have remained united in their commitment to making sure it becomes law,” said Marc Berejka, Director of Government and Community Affairs at REI.
  • “Sen. Cantwell has been a tenacious champion for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, carrying the love that Washingtonians have for our public lands to the Senate floor to protect this crucial conservation program,” said Mike Stevens, Washington state director for The Nature Conservancy. “LWCF, a legacy of Sen. Scoop Jackson, has benefited every corner of our state, and ensures that all Americans have access to parks, trails, rivers and incredible natural places. Without Sen. Cantwell’s commitment, we would not have succeeded in this crucial step toward permanent reauthorization of the LWCF.”
  • “This monumental vote affirms that bipartisan support continues for protection of our cherished public lands,” said Mitch Friedman, Executive Director of Conservation Northwest. “One reason for that is that public support for public lands remains strong and broad. Another reason is leadership in the Senate, especially by Senator Cantwell, to drive this issue forward over years and countless obstacles. She deserves our great thanks.”
  • “We commend Senator Cantwell for her leadership and bipartisan efforts to protect the Land and Water Conservation Fund through the S47 Public Lands Package. The tax-free Fund is one of the best tools we have to ensure all Americans can enjoy our outdoors, from local parks in underserved communities to national parks and working forests. Thank you to Senator Cantwell for her work to permanently reauthorize this critical program that serves not only Washington, but all Americans!" said Christine Mahler, Executive Director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.
  • “Senator Cantwell is a tireless leader for conserving America’s most important places through LWCF programs. Here in Washington she champions protecting the most productive working forests for local economies along with old growth forests for critical habit. Our recreation, clean air and clean water depend on her leadership,” said Glenn Lamb, Executive Director of the Columbia Land Trust.
  • “Today, a commitment to the public was honored by the approval of funding for our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and recreation areas - securing state and local funding for generations to come,” said Tom Uniack, Executive Director of Washington Wild, a nonprofit conservation organization working to protect and defend wild places like Olympic National Park, Ebbeys Landing and the Pacific Crest Trail. “The permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund would not have been possible without the tireless leadership of Senator Maria Cantwell and the hundreds of millions of Americans who support our public lands.”