Support the Land & Water Conservation Fund

Lake Conasauga - Chattahoochee National Forest, photo by Phuc Dao

Lake Conasauga - Chattahoochee National Forest, photo by Phuc Dao

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the strongest conservation mechanism in the history of our nation and its authorization expired on September 30 due to Congress not taking action.

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 Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

Funded exclusively by the 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 lands and waters, the protection of endangered and threatened species and the establishment of urban parks and preserves across the country.

What does the Land & Water Conservation Fund mean for Georgia?

Chattahoochee National Forest by Phuc Dao

Chattahoochee National Forest by Phuc Dao

During the more than five decades of the LWCF existence, Georgia has received approximately $312 million 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, Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and, most recently, Sansavilla Wildlife Management Area are among just some of places in our state that have benefited from this critical program.

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 $27.3 billion in consumer spending in Georgia, 238,000 jobs across Georgia which generate $8.1 billion in wages and salaries, and produces nearly $1.8 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.

Congressional support for the Land & Water Conservation Fund

Though the LWCF continues to draw bipartisan support in Congress, support from the Executive Branch has all but disappeared under the Trump Administration. In 2016, then-Montana Representative Ryan Zinke enthusiastically advocated for full funding of the LWCF, to the tune of $900 million. However, in his current role as Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke has included only $8.4 million for the LWCF in the Department of the Interior’s proposed FY 2019 Budget - less than 1% of its potential maximum funding.

Zinke’s budget has proven to be unpopular in Congress, a body who has indicated that it supports LWCF funding from minimum of $375 million (slightly less than FY 2018 funding) to a full allotment of nearly $900 million. But time is running out. By September 30 our congressional leaders in Washington will need to make a decision that could, perhaps, determine the fate of conservation in our nation of years to come.

Bipartisan legislation, Senate Bill 569, has been introduced by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) which seeks to permanently re-authorize the LWCF. Importantly, the measure also proposes that the LWCF be permanently funded in full, with dedicated dollars being used only for their intended conservation and recreation purposes.

The Georgia Conservancy fully advocates for the swift passage of this bipartisan legislation that would re-establish and fully fund the LWCF and calls upon Georgia’s leaders in Congress, as well as the Trump Administration, to support this incredibly important conservation and outdoor recreation measure.

Please kindly reach out to Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA) to encourage their support of Senate Bill 569.