Two opinion pieces published yesterday in national newspapers from members of both parties underscore the bipartisan importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The first, from Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT), is a call to members of his party to support this long-standing fund. The second, from former Secretary of the Interior and Colorado senator Ken Salazar, compares our nation’s national parks to other countries’ masterpieces—such as the Mona Lisa—and asks how we could abandon them half-finished.
Rep. Zinke’s letter in the Washington Post proves that as a Montanan, he knows the importance of the conservation fund to both westerners specifically, and Americans as a whole. “The fund is fiscally responsible,” writes Rep. Zinke, “…certainly we can reform the program without gutting it.” The $540 million that Montana has received from the LWCF has gone to hiking trails, playgrounds, community pools and parks, and even national parks that continue to be a significant part of Montana’s economy. That’s not something Rep. Zinke’s state can afford to lose.
Former Secretary Salazar’s op-ed underscores just how much of America’s history the LWCF has protected. Places as old as Gettysburg National Battlefield Historic Park and as new as the Flight 93 Memorial could not have been protected without the Fund, Sec. Salazar points out—and those places are critical to telling our story as Americans. Writes Sec. Salazar, “Why on earth would Congress end a program that costs taxpayers nothing, and that protects the places that define us as a people?”
That these two westerners, who hail from different states and backgrounds, could express such similar sentiments about the LWCF on the same day shows just how deep support for the Fund runs. LWCF has been around for 50 years—it’s outlasted numerous administrations, Congresses, and even careers.
In light of this long-term, widespread, bipartisan support for the Fund, Rep. Zinke puts it best when he ends with these simple but important words: “Congress has broken a lot of promises to future generations. Let’s not make the LWCF another one.”