Senate Democrats Urge Commitment from Leader McConnell to Bring Permanent Reauthorization that Fully Funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund to the Senate Floor

Washington, D.C. – Today, a group of Senate Democratic leaders including U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging him to schedule consideration of a bipartisan bill that would permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

After failing to include the LWCF in the Continuing Resolution, this critical program expired for the first time in its 50-year history. The LWCF supports over $656 billion in economic activity and over 6 million jobs nationwide and letting special interests determine the future of the program puts our natural heritage at risk.

The letter was sent by Senate Democratic leaders Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Patty Murray and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell. 

Read the full text of the letter below.

Dear Majority Leader McConnell:
While the Senate was wasting precious time on repeated political show votes that were destined to fail, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) expired for the first time in its 50-year history. The LWCF protects our public lands for conservation and recreation, helps state and local communities build parks and recreation facilities, and invests in voluntary conservation on private lands. It has been used to fund projects in every single state in the nation. Because LWCF gives Americans across the country an opportunity to enjoy outdoor recreation, it has gathered strong bipartisan support. There is no question that its expiration could have been avoided had an extension been included in the Continuing Resolution or you simply scheduled a vote on bipartisan legislation to extend its life before September 30th. We write to urge you to remedy this failure by immediately scheduling Senate consideration of bipartisan legislation to permanently reauthorize the LWCF and finally provide it full funding.
It is troubling that the Senate has spent weeks pursuing doomed votes on efforts to take away women’s health care and lock in mindless cuts to critical priorities, all the while knowing that the LWCF was set to expire. In addition, a bipartisan group of 53 Senators requested attaching a temporary reauthorization to the Continuing Resolution, only to be blocked by Republican Leadership.
We are also deeply concerned that some outside special interests funded by big oil companies are trying to undermine the LWCF as part of their campaign to effectively decimate the National Park system and federal programs to support conservation and outdoor recreation. We are concerned that these efforts will combine to undermine the LWCF’s funding and integrity over time, which could jeopardize conservation of the nation’s most cherished outdoor areas in favor of giveaways to special interests.
The expiration of the LWCF program has real consequences for our economy. Studies have consistently found that investing in land acquisition or improvements creates a significant return for taxpayers and local economies. In fact, the outdoor recreation economy generates $646 billion in economic activity each year and creates 6.1 million direct jobs. Every state benefits from LWCF; however, there is a huge backlog of outdoor projects that need investment throughout the country. Unfortunately, though the LWCF program raises approximately $900 million per year, Congress has only appropriated about one-third of that amount in recent years. In fact, the Senate Republican appropriations bills for FY2016 would have cut LWCF by over $100 million compared to President Obama’s request. Not only do we need to reauthorize the program permanently, but Congress must strive to provide full funding for the backlog of conservation projects across the country.
We urge you to bring a permanent reauthorization bill to the Senate floor that would provide full funding for the LWCF program as soon as possible. Senate Democrats will be happy to work with you to expedite consideration and debate for such a measure.