After several Senate and House members took to the podium to make big promises about protecting America’s outdoor heritage this week with the formation of the ‘Roosevelt Conservation Caucus,’ many are left wondering if it’s just mostly hot air trying to cover up the Trump administration’s abysmal record on public lands. The list of issues identified by the newly formed caucus failed to include the Land and Water Conservation Fund – America’s most important public lands, parks, and public access tool.
“We have seen this DC political dance before – make big promises and deliver no results in protecting our public lands and outdoor heritage. There is legislation waiting in the Senate that would provide full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which both Colorado Senator Cory Gardner and Montana Senator Steve Daines have cosponsored, yet nothing has happened. It’s long past time for Daines and Gardner to accomplish the bare minimum and provide full and permanent funding for this vital public lands and public access program,” said Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger.
The LWCF does not cost taxpayers a dime; instead, the fund invests royalties from offshore oil and gas leasing back into conservation efforts across the country. Since its creation in 1964, Congress has only once allocated the full $900 million allowed under the act, meaning America’s public lands, parks, and public access continue to suffer as some $22 billion has already been diverted from the fund.
In the Senate, legislation was proposed to ensure full and permanent funding for the LWCF. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act (S. 1081), which is co-sponsored by both Senator Daines (R-MT) and Senator Gardner (R-CO). The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which is chaired by fellow caucus member Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), has yet to even schedule a hearing on the legislation.
Similar legislation, providing full and permanent funding for the LWCF, easily passed its first House committee vote and is moving forward.