Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) failed to commit to fully and permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in a new interview with E&E News, saying, “I have been a strong supporter certainly for that fund, but I just have a different philosophy about how we should be using our responsibility as a Congress.” McSally also said that it “makes sense” to consider selling federal public lands to state or private entities.
“After months of tiptoeing around the issue and using empty talking points, Senator McSally finally drops her typical politician doublespeak and comes clean to her constituents,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director of Western Values Project. “Arizonans long gave her the benefit of the doubt, but we all see now that she was never serious about securing full and permanent funding for the LWCF and she’s open to selling off public lands to boot. Senator McSally just took a hike on Arizona’s and America’s parks and public lands.”
Last week, the Senate voted to pass spending packages for the 2020 fiscal year, which included appropriations for the 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 Sen. McSally failed to deliver on this key program that has greatly benefitted her state.
Arizona has economically benefited 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 national parks, including the Grand Canyon.
Ironically, this summer, Senator McSally declared she wanted to become the first member of Congress to hike the entire length of the federally designated National Scenic Trail (NST) in Arizona, recently hiking a portion of it near Flagstaff. However, the Arizona portion of the NST is not fully protected. Without funding from the LWCF, 88 miles along Arizona trail’s route could be sold off at any time.
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.