Champs Versus Chumps: The Land and Water Conservation Fund Still Hangs in the Balance

Will the Senate Follow the House’s Lead in Advancing Funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund?

Whitefish, MT – The future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)- the highly popular and essential conservation funding bill- continues to face uncertainty, despite the House having recently advanced funding legislation to move the measure forward. Today the Senate is holding a ‘review’ hearing on the popular public lands and parks fund. 

“It’s time for Senators to stop dragging their feet. Too many times politicians have used our public lands as a talking point without taking action to protect and maintain them. It speaks to priorities of the Senate that the witness panel includes a right-wing think tank, the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) funded by Koch Industries. Supporting the LWCF should come before political party lines and mineral extraction interests,” said Jayson O’Neill, Western Values Project Deputy Director. 

There are countless examples of elected officials using public lands for their own political gain while their actions tell a different story. Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Cory Gardner (R-MT) both prove time and again that promises to their constituents are as empty as the current Land and Water Conservation Fund bank account. Other politicians, Senator Martha McSally for instance, voted to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, attributing and dedicating the legislation to the late Senator John McCain. But she still hasn’t committed to actually providing funding. Both Senators Daines and Gardner are cosponsors of Senate Bill 1081, legislation introduced in April by Senator Manchin (D-WV), which would permanently fund the LWCF at $900 million. The committee has yet to schedule a hearing on the legislation.

The LWCF recently received a big win on June 19, when the House Natural Resources Committee voted to advance a bill intended to permanently and fully fund the LWCF. The Senate must act swiftly to ensure our parks are funded, maintained, and protected. 

Trump’s proposed budget for 2020 slashed the LWCF budget by 95 percent. Such staggering cuts are not a new practice: Trump’s 2018 budget proposal tried to cut the LWCF by 84 percent. As if that weren’t enough, his 2019 budget pursued an astonishing 98 percent in LWCF budget cuts. 

Despite not costing taxpayers a dime, funding for the LWCF has still not been passed. While advocates around the country call for its funding, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has done next to nothing to help Congress pass important funding legislation.

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