Action needed to restore conservation fund
We are on the brink of losing — perhaps forever — one of our soundest federal conservation programs, the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
This fund was established by Congress in 1964 to fulfill a bipartisan commitment to safeguard our natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. Using zero taxpayer dollars, the fund invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to help strengthen communities, preserve our history and protect our national endowment of lands and waters.
The LWCF expired on Sept. 30 because of inaction by Congress. Sadly, that inaction jeopardizes public access to and enjoyment of green spaces across the nation for future generations. Reauthorizing LWCF is absolutely a win-win. Moving earnings from drilling which has the potential to harm the environment to investing in ways to protect the environment just makes sense. The LWCF makes it possible for communities across the nation to help offset the impacts of resource extraction by protecting land and water resources at home.
The LWCF has created outdoor recreation opportunities in every state and virtually every county across the country, including all 88 of Ohio’s counties. When it comes to the local impact of the expiration of LWCF, Ohio has received approximately $333 million in LWCF funding over the past five decades, protecting places such as the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, the Wayne National Forest and the James Garfield National Historic Site.
Outdoor recreation is crucial to Ohio’s economy — generating $24.3 billion in consumer spending, 215,000 jobs which generate $7 billion in wages and salaries, and producing $1.5 billion annually in state and local tax revenue. Additionally, every year 5 million people hunt, fish, or enjoy wildlife-watching in Ohio, contributing $3.2 billion in wildlife recreation spending to the state economy. Some of the places where this money is being spent are only open to the public and available due to the LWCF.
The American population in 2050 is expected to be twice that of 1964, when the LWCF was created. Just imagine the impacts on our natural resources created by this population pressure. Our nation’s critical landscapes can never be replaced when lost, and continued LWCF funding helps to ensure that they will be present for generations to come. In my dayto-day work at the Tecumseh Land Trust, I see the need to protect more land and water here in southwest Ohio. The pace of preservation isn’t keeping up with the pace of development. We absolutely need every tool in the toolbox to protect what we still have.
And across the county, much more must be done to meet current and future needs for our green spaces. We need Congress to step up and reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund so we can continue to protect land and water for future generations. Please call your legislators today and ask them to permanently reauthorize this widely supported fund, and mandate continued funding.
Every day this important fund is dormant, we are losing a chance to preserve and create access to important natural and recreational resources, the infrastructure needed to make and keep Ohio an ideal place to live, work and play.