WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich joined a bipartisan group of senators urging Senate leadership to permanently reauthorize and to fully fund the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
“The LWCF is one of the country’s best conservation programs, preserving public lands and ensuring access to outdoor recreation in rural and urban areas,” the senators wrote. “For the last half century, it has protected lands, historic sites, national parks, wilderness areas, and urban parks in every state… It is critical that this program be reauthorized before its expiration on September 30, 2018.”
The LWCF has supported more than 42,000 state and local projects in communities across the country. In New Mexico, the LWCF has invested more than $312 million to protect public lands and open spaces and increase recreational opportunities. The fund, for example, helped add an additional 2,500 acres to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in northern New Mexico, and helped protect 605 acres on Upper Bear Creek in the Gila National Forest in the southwest part of the state.
New Mexico’s $9.9 billion outdoor industry is a significant economic driver in the state, supporting 99,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in wages. The LWCF’s programs contribute to this key industry.
The program is funded by a portion of federal oil and gas royalties, and operates without any taxpayer funding. However, according to the senators, since its founding in 1965, more than $21 billion has been diverted from the LWCF trust fund to other purposes. Udall, Heinrich, and the other senators called for the inclusion of “mandatory full funding in any LWCF reauthorization package.” Full funding would restore LWCF funding to its original conservation and outdoor recreation purposes, the senators said.
The letter can be viewed here.