Support the Land & Water Conservation Fund
In April 2016, the United States Senate voted to permanently authorize one of our nation's most important mechanisms for conservation - the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
During the previous September, Congress had allowed for the historic LWCF to expire by excluding it from the FY2016 Budget before providing a temporary re-authorization in December.
Since its authorization by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has helped to provide support for and protection of our most iconic national treasures, including Grand Canyon National Park, the Appalachian Trail, Gettysburg National Military Park and the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Fully funded by revenue from federal offshore oil and gas leases, the LWCF provides for the preservation and management of America’s National Parks, Wildlife Refuges and Forests, as well as the expansion of recreational access, the targeted conservation of threatened forests, the protection of endangered and threatened species and the establishment of urban parks and preserves across the country. The LWCF is the strongest conservation mechanism in the history of our nation.
Last year marked a true turning point for the LWCF, and its future may take a radically different path. Proposed in the Executive Branch's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget was a $900 million dollar investment in America’s natural resources through the LWCF – only the second time in the fund’s fifty year history that full funding had been proposed in the budget. Congress had the opportunity to tackle some of our nation’s most critical conservation opportunities by approving this budget. But there was enough opposition in Congress to dismantle the fund entirely by voting against its budget inclusion and the program’s authorization expired in September.
The Energy Policy Modernization Act, in which the LWCF authorization is included, will now most likely go to a conference committee with the House of Representatives. There is still much work ahead in 2016!
What does this mean for Georgia?
Over the five decades of the LWCF’s existence, Georgia has received approximately $312 million from for the protection of our lands and waters. The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA), the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River, Cumberland Island National Seashore and Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge are among just some of places in our state that have benefited from this critical program.
Georgia projects included in this year’s proposed budget would enhance recreation, provide for conservation and protect water in the CRNRA, the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests, the Lentile Longleaf Pine Tract and the Okefenokee.
What are the economic benefits of conservation in Georgia?
Recreational access to our public lands for fishing, hunting, camping and exploring are a tremendous boom to Georgia’s economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, such “active outdoor recreation supports $23 billion in consumer spending in Georgia, 231,000 jobs across Georgia which generate $7 billion in wages and salaries, and produces nearly $1.3 billion annually in state and local tax revenue.”
A robust economy depends upon strategic conservation of our state’s lands and water. And without the LWCF, many of these places would have been lost forever.
What can you do?
Please reach out to your congressional representatives in Washington and let them know that the re-authorization of this historic conservation tool is extremely important to the protection and conservation of our state’s most precious natural resources. While emails are often the most convenient way to share your concerns with elected officials, phone calls or traditional letters tend to receive more attention from staff and elected officials.
Banner Photo of Flint River by Chris Drummond
To learn more about the Georgia Conservancy's Advocacy efforts, please contact Georgia Conservancy Advocacy Director Leah Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org