Just last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed important legislation that would fully and permanently fund America’s most critical parks and public lands program; but if the bill is not voted on before the end of the year, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) will continue to languish with an uncertain future.
“Full and permanent funding for this critical public lands and parks fund has been routinely promised by key Western Senators. But their silence is deafening when it comes to pressuring the man in charge — Senator Mitch McConnell — to bring the LWCF up for a full Senate vote,” said Western Values Project Deputy Director Jayson O’Neill. “The clock is ticking to get this critical legislation across the goal line before time runs out. If our public lands are again put on the backburner, these Senators will feel the heat for making empty promises about supporting our public lands and parks.”
Key Western Senators Steve Daines (R-MT), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Martha McSally (R-AZ), who previously touted the permanent reauthorization of the fund, finally voted to pass the full and permanent legislation out of committee after sustained pressure from their constituents as well as conservation and sports groups. However, if these Senators do not push Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — who continues to allow many successful and bipartisan bills to die on the Senate floor — to schedule and bring the LWCF legislation up for a floor vote, it will have to be reintroduced in the new year. According to the tentative Senate calendar, there are only 10 working days left on the schedule.
The LWCF funding bill (S. 1081), introduced by Sen. Manchin (D-WV) in the spring, has wide bipartisan support, with 49 co-sponsors. It was passed out of committee on a 13-7 bipartisan vote. The LWCF is widely supported and doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime; instead, it invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing back into America’s parks and public lands. Since its creation in 1965, 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. Companion legislation passed the House Natural Resources Committee in June.
Earlier this year, 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.