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 Cory Gardner (R-CO) failed to deliver on this key program that has greatly benefitted his state.
“As expected, Sen. Gardner broke his promise to Coloradoans and the American people. He’s exhausted his public lands talking points, and we see now that he was never serious about securing full and permanent funding for the LWCF,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director of Western Values Project. “Sen. Gardner either doesn’t realize what’s at stake – Colorado’s parks, waterways, and public lands – or he just doesn’t care.”
Though Sen. Gardner was a co-sponsor of Sen. Joe Manchin’s legislation to fully and permanently fund the program at $900 million, today’s passage of half the necessary funding levels means that Sen. Gardner was unable to follow through and that Colorado’s public lands will now suffer. He continues to support President Trump’s public lands stance, even though the administration’s proposed budget nearly zeroed out LWCF funding.
Colorado has economically benefited tremendously from the LWCF, which has invested more than $278.6 million to protect Colorado’s outdoor spaces, historic sites, and recreation areas. Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry generates $28 billion in consumer spending and $2 billion annually in local and state tax revenue, supporting 229,000 jobs, generating $9.7 billion in wages and salaries, and helping to provide a place for over 2 million people annually to hunt, fish, and enjoy in Colorado’s wildlife. The LWCF also supports improvements to Colorado’s four National Parks — Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes and Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
“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.