The Senate today voted to pass spending packages for the 2020 fiscal year, which include appropriations for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The Senate spending bills, however, failed to fully fund the critical parks and public lands program, approving only $465 million of the $900 million needed to fully fund the LWCF — meaning that Western Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) failed to deliver on this key program that has greatly benefitted her state.
“As expected, Sen. McSally broke her promise to Arizonans and the American people. She’s exhausted her public lands talking points, and we see now that she was never serious about securing full and permanent funding for the LWCF,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director of Western Values Project. “Sen. McSally either doesn’t realize what’s at stake – Arizona’s parks, waterways, and public lands – or she just doesn’t care.”
Strikingly, Sen. McSally is not a co-sponsor of the pending bipartisan legislation that would fully and permanently fund the LWCF. While Sen. McSally previously voted to pass the LWCF into permanent law — dedicating her vote to the late Senator John McCain and stressing the importance of the fund in a recent congressional hearing — her talking points ring empty. Sen. McSally continues to support President Trump’s public lands stance, even though the administration’s proposed budget nearly zeroed out LWCF funding.
Arizona has economically benefited tremendously from the LWCF, which has invested more than $243 million in the past half-century to protect Arizona’s iconic parks open spaces, historic sites, and recreation areas. Arizona’s outdoor recreation generates $1.4 billion annually in state and local tax revenue, supports 201,000 jobs, and helps provide a place for more than 1.5 million people annually to hunt, fish, and enjoy in Arizona’s wildlife. The LWCF also supports improvements to both of Arizona’s iconic Grand Canyon National Park.
“Inaction and empty promises won’t protect our public lands, parks and Western way of life,” continued O’Neill. “The LWCF needs full and permanent funding now, before our outdoor heritage falls further into disrepair, and before our public lands are sold off to special interests.”
The LWCF is widely supported and doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. Since its creation in 1964, Congress has only allocated the full $900 million allowed under the act a handful of times, meaning $22 billion in funding to support America’s public lands, parks, and public access have been diverted. On March 12, 2019, the LWCF was signed into permanent law, after passing Congress by a wide bipartisan margin. But despite being permanently reauthorized, the LWCF still faces an uncertain future with Congress neglecting to fully fund the critical program.
Earlier this summer, Western Values Project launched a campaign calling on three key Western senators — Gardner, McSally, and Daines — to ensure full and permanent funding for the LWCF. The campaign has been urging constituents to visit TellMcSally.org, TellGardner.org, and TellDaines.org to tell their Senator to show leadership on this issue.