At the end of 2015, the 114th Congress reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund for three more years, as well as giving the fund a needed boost in funding for 2016 to $450 million, more than $150 million more than 2015 levels. This 50-year old program expired on September 30th, 2015, and a select few in Congress managed to block permanent reauthorization in the final months of the year.
Kelley Beamer, Executive Director of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts, said of the agreement, “The extension of LWCF is a victory for conservation in Oregon, and the higher 2016 funding levels are critical to advancing projects like the protection of the East Moraine of Wallowa Lake and important habitat in the Elk River watershed.” She continued, “We are grateful for the hard work of Oregon’s Delegation and are glad LWCF will live to see another day. However it is disappointing to only have a three-year window before the program expires again. We need to see it made permanent.”
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) also said, “Oregonians expect these protections should eventually become permanent, and I will continue the fight to accomplish just that.”
For more on the end-of-year agreement, COLT’s press release can be found here.
See our brochure to learn how Oregon’s land trusts are key partners bringing LWCF funding to our state.
Since its inception in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has helped state agencies and local communities acquire over seven million acres of land. LWCF has also helped in the development of more than 41,000 state and local park and recreation projects across the country. Over the last fifty years, LWCF has invested approximately $304 million here in Oregon to expand public access to lakes and streams, build sports fields, trails and local parks, conserve working forests and protect Oregon icons. From the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon Coast Wildlife Refuges and West Eugene Wetlands, to the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, Nez Perce National Historic Trail and Fort Clatsop National Memorial, LWCF funding has helped protect Oregon’s most precious public lands.
The idea behind LWCF is simple: a portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas development – not taxpayer dollars – goes to protecting our outdoor heritage. Unfortunately, LWCF – and the Oregon heritage it helps protect – is at risk. Although the program is fully funded already through these oil and gas leases, budgeting $900 million every year in funding that should be dedicated to conservation, Congress diverts over half of this for unrelated spending each year, all at the expense of communities across America.This redirection of authorized funds puts important Oregon projects at great risk.
As it currently stands, the LWCF program will expire once again on September 30, 2018. We need Congress to act and reauthorize this vital source of needed and funding that is already available, preserving our collective natural and cultural heritage. Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley both support full, annual funding of the program, as well as its reauthorization.
With Senator Wyden currently serving on the Senate Finance Committee and Senator Merkley on the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Oregon is uniquely positioned to play a critical role in securing full and continued access to these funds.
The Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts sponsored a poll in 2014 that found that 89% of Oregonians support the continued use of fees from oil and gas drilling to fund the LWCF. For the full results of this poll, please see short report by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.
We need Oregon’s House Delegation to tell Congress to fund LWCF in full, so Oregon gets the oil and gas revenues it deserves to protect our proud outdoor heritage.
Contact Senators Wyden and Merkley’s office and express your support for the full, dedicated funding for LWCF. For more information and to keep up to date with issues, take a look at the LWCF Coalition, a broad group of organizations working to maintain the viability of LWCF.