WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich applauded President Obama's announcement that he will work to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), an innovative conservation program that has helped to preserve public lands, create and expand city parks, and provide access to outdoor recreation across the New Mexico and the nation. Funding through the LWCF has helped conserve special places from the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Bernalillo County to the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte national monuments in Southern and Northern New Mexico.
The president announced his proposal in advance of the release of his Fiscal Year 2017 budget blueprint, which he will present to Congress on Feb. 9. His FY17 budget proposes investing $900 million in conservation and recreation projects across the country and seeks to make LWCF funding mandatory and to permanently authorize the program. The president's budget proposal also identifies specific New Mexico funding priorities for FY17, including acquisition of inholdings and land to expand or enhance the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, Rio Grande del Norte, the Continental Divide Trail, the Sabinoso Wilderness, and part of the Burnt Corn Pueblo, one of 24 sites included in the 2004 Galisteo Basin Cultural Sites Protection Act.
The LWCF is funded at no cost to the taxpayers from a portion of the revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling. Although it has been a huge success, the program has never received the full funding Congress intended when it was created over 50 years ago. Last year, the future of the LWCF was put in jeopardy as authorization and funding expired. Udall and Heinrich fought hard and successfully extended the fund for an additional three years at the end of 2015. Future funding and authorization for the LWCF and any specific projects ultimately will be determined by Congress.
Udall, the lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, will have the opportunity to fight for the president's proposal as the Senate writes funding bills this year. "The president's focus on permanently and fully funding the LWCF is great news for New Mexico and communities across the country. The LWCF has helped New Mexico conserve our cultural sites and beautiful landscapes, and it has created ballfields and community parks across the state. It helps create jobs at no cost to the taxpayers, and every dollar invested brings in $4 for our local communities," Udall said. "I look forward to working in the Appropriations Committee to ensure the LWCF is fully funded and authorized so it can finally live up to its full potential. The president is a powerful advocate, and I'm very pleased to have momentum as we begin the budget process."
“The president’s commitment to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and pursue permanent authorization is welcome news. And I’m pleased that this proposal would benefit projects in New Mexico to expand outdoor recreation opportunities and contribute to our economy," Heinrich said. "LWCF is one of America’s most successful conservation programs that has preserved our outdoor heritage, protected clean air and precious supplies of drinking water, and supported jobs across the country. In New Mexico it provides public land access for sportsmen, ensures there are soccer fields and baseball diamonds for our children, and protects some of our most iconic landscapes. I will continue to fight for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the Senate so that all of our children and grandchildren can continue to come back to these outdoor places year after year.”
Michael Casaus, The Wilderness Society's New Mexico State Director, joined Udall and Heinrich in welcoming the president's news. “Conserving New Mexico’s treasured places is essential to preserving our state’s cultural, historic and natural heritage," Casaus said. "We applaud the President for proposing funds to protect these areas, which draw visitors to New Mexico and enhances our state’s economy.”