Senate Democrats Seek Action to Reauthorize, Fully Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Watch her speech here.

Washington, D.C. – Today, a group of Senate Democrats led by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, urged the Senate to extend the authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This program protects national parks, forests, public lands and historical sites, and it provides opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking and other recreational uses.

The authorization for this critical program expired for the first time in its 50-year history on September 30. The LWCF supports more than $656 billion in economic activity and more than 6 million jobs nationwide. In the state of Washington alone, active outdoor recreation contributes more than $11.7 billion annually to the economy and it produces $8.5 billion annually in retail sales and services across the state. It is a successful program, good for both the environment and the economy.

Today Sen. Cantwell went to the Senate floor, along with Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), urging immediate action on reauthorization of the nation’s most successful conservation program. Sen. Cantwell also sent a letter to Republican leadership, offering to work together to “expedite consideration and debate” on a bill to reauthorize the program.

Sen. Cantwell has seized multiple opportunities to reinstate the program. She introduced S. 890, a bill to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the program, and included provisions in both the bipartisan energy bill (S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act) and the Democratic energy bill she authored (S. 2089, the American Energy Innovation Act). Today marks her latest effort to prevent special interests from putting our natural heritage at risk.

Read the full text of her statement below:

“Mr. President, I rise to come to the floor tonight to talk about something I’d like to see done in the United States Senate - passage of reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“Definitely the Senate and Congress have disappointed us in not passing the Export-Import Bank reauthorization, which is something I’m a big proponent of. And now, here we are with the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“For the first time in the 51 years since this program was created, it has expired.

“My colleagues are here on the floor to join me – I thank the senator from Montana and the senator from New Mexico – to talk about why this is such a vital program to all of our states and why we should have it reauthorized immediately.

“The bill creating the Land and Water Conservation Fund was championed by Senator Scoop Jackson, at the request of then President Kennedy. Why? Because the American population was growing, there was a need for outdoor recreation and open space and public lands.

“And the Land and Water Conservation Fund was created to help protect some of our most popular national parks, forests, public lands and iconic places. So, for me, this is an incredibly important program because it’s provided opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking and other recreational uses that so many people use when traveling to the Pacific Northwest for vacation or for their livelihood.

“Those of us from states with large amounts of public land recognize the importance of outdoor recreation. Nationwide, outdoor recreation supports more than 6 million jobs. This is an economy in and of itself. In the state of Washington, active outdoor recreation contributes more than $11.7 billion annually to Washington’s economy. And it’s clear that protecting our public lands is good for both our environment and our economy.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been credited each year with funds from outer continental shelf oil and gas revenues.  And the success of that program has helped us authorize and make these investments for the American people, as I have said, for more than 50 years.

“We are here to remind my colleagues that we are going to put up a fight until we have the Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorized. And to make sure that people in our states and all across the nation that enjoy public lands have access to them.

“This issue is important to us and in the energy bill we passed out of the Senate Energy Committee, I worked with my colleague Sen. Murkowski on a bipartisan basis to include a permanent reauthorization of the LWCF.  

“And I was joined by 31 senators to introduce the American Energy Innovation Act that also permanently reauthorized and fully funded the LWCF.

“So you can see from these two pieces of legislation that there was a lot of support by our colleagues for maintaining this vital program that is used by cities, counties, and jurisdictions in my state and in my colleagues’ states and many others across the nation and that it is a vital tool for helping us to thrive in our outdoor economy. We want to see this legislation reauthorized as soon as possible. I thank my colleagues again from New Mexico and Montana for being here and for their leadership on this issue.”