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Van Drew Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Protect the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)

Van Drew “hit the ground running” in Congress as Freshman Leading the Pack on Legislation to Protect Public Lands

June 12, 2019
CONTACT – Mackenzie Lucas 1(202)225-6572

Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) introduced the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Permanent Funding Act with Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and a bipartisan group of Congressional lawmakers and environmental leaders this morning at a press conference held at the U.S. Capitol. The bill fully funds LWCF at its authorized level of $900 million annually, which Congress routinely fails to do despite the program’s broad bipartisan support and decades of successful land conservation at the local, state and federal levels. 

The public lands package that became law earlier this year included permanent LWCF reauthorization, which ensures that the program does not become a political football in future years but does not assure full funding. LWCF, which is funded by oil and gas royalties extracted from federal waters in the Outer Continental Shelf, is authorized to spend $900 million annually on state, local and national conservation projects, but Congress has routinely underfunded the program by 50 percent or more each year.

Every state and county in the nation benefits from LWCF, all without taxpayers spending a dime of taxpayer dollars. Since 1965, LWCF has funded 42,000 projects across the country that have tremendous economic benefits and returns on investment for the country. In fact, studies show that each dollar spent on LWCF has the potential to generate twice that amount in economic activity. Additionally, our outdoor recreation contributes $887 billion annually to the economy and supports 7.6 million jobs.

The critical objective the bill would accomplish is to take the funding that is already being set aside for conservation and prevent future Congresses and any Administration from raiding this fund and using it for other purposes that were not intended when LWCF became law more than 50 years ago.

“This bill is the epitome of everything it means to work together in a bipartisan way to get things done here in Congress. It is an example of something that we CAN agree on. Together with Rep. Fitzpatrick, Chair Grijalva, and many others, we figured out a way to get something done that means something, that won’t cost a single tax payer dollar, and that protects our parks and lands,” said Rep. Van Drew. “For over 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested over $350 million for some of New Jersey’s most significant natural areas such as the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge which provides access for recreational hunting, fishing and other outdoor experiences like birding. Permanently reauthorizing LWCF was an important step, but now we need to finish the job and ensure that the funds intended to create parks and protect open spaces actually get utilized for those purposes. Our bipartisan bill is a win for taxpayers, good governance and future generations of Americans.”

“The ongoing bipartisan support for LWCF is really a testament to the work of the people here today,” Grijalva said at the event. “I’m grateful for the leadership of Rep. Van Drew, who is championing this bill. We need to pass this legislation to ensure that LWCF can live up to its full potential.”

In addition to Grijalva, original cosponsors of the bill include Vice Chair Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI), Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Rep. TJ Cox (D-Calif.), Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.). Representatives Huffman, Fitzpatrick and Zeldin spoke at this morning’s event. The Congressmen were joined by Jenny Brandt, Deputy Director, Conservation Programs, Hispanic Access Foundation; Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Vice President of Government Affairs, Outdoor Industry Association; and Tiernan Sittenfeld, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, League of Conservation Voters.  

Quotes from Organizations that support the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Permanent Funding Act:

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund was permanently reauthorized because people across the country overwhelmingly support LWCF and the benefits it provides to communities,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, the Senior Vice President for Government Affairs with the League of Conservation Voters.  “Now it’s time to keep up the momentum and ensure LWCF gets the funding it deserves.  LWCF deserves full, guaranteed funding at $900 million every single year so our growing population can have more parks and public lands to boost the outdoor recreation economy and quality of life for all communities.  We thank Rep. Van Drew, Chairman Grijalva and the bipartisan cosponsors of this legislation and have every confidence the pro-environment House of Representatives will lead the way to full funding for America’s best parks program.”

“Every dollar diverted from fully funding LWCF at $900 million a year is a lost opportunity to maintain and bolster our public lands and the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy that millions of Americans depend upon for their livelihoods and well-being,” said Patricia Rojas-Ungar, vice president of government affairs for Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). “OIA and our members support the bill’s sponsors. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) and Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and all the bipartisan leaders working tirelessly to fully fund LWCF and ensure we seize the opportunity to create landscape connectivity, invest in our hiking and biking trails, provide funding for playgrounds, ballfields, and community gardens and more. We urge everyone who cares about getting outside on our public lands and the businesses and communities who rely on the outdoor recreation economy to contact their representatives in Congress and tell them to get LWCF fully funded.”

“LWCF is particularly important for Latino communities that traditionally lack equitable access to green and open spaces,” Jenny Brandt, Deputy Director, Conservation Programs, Hispanic Access Foundation. “This program increases access to local, state, and national parks for Latino communities - increasing opportunities for physical activity, places to gather with their families and communities, and recreational activities. For many Latinos and other diverse communities, sites funded through LWCF often provide their only means to experience the outdoors because this program directly supports local and municipal parks and projects."

“New Jersey Conservation Foundation applauds Congressman Van Drew for leading the effort to fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, our nation's most popular bipartisan conservation program,” said Alison Mitchell, policy director of New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “From the Rockaway River in the New Jersey Highlands, to Jesse Allen Park in Newark, and from Cape May and Delaware Bay wetlands to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, LWCF has funded the protection of some of our most treasured landscapes and trails in the Northeast.  LWCF provides tremendous benefits to every region in the country, but in order to continue this work, full and permanent funding is necessary.”

“The Coalition thanks Congressman Jeff Van Drew for his continued environmental leadership to benefit the Delaware River Watershed. After years of backlogged funding, it’s time LWCF’s intent is supported with permanent funding to invest in conservation and recreation. Congressman Van Drew’s House bill represents a big step in the right direction for communities and wildlife that depend on open space and we look forward to working with him to ensure the legislation progresses,” said Sandra Meola, Director of the Coalition for the Delaware Watershed.

“Stakeholders in the Highlands Region applaud Congressmen Jeff Van Drew [D-NJ] and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) for their leadership in proposing legislation to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.   Earlier this year Congress showed strong support for conservation and outdoor recreation initiatives with the passage of a law to permanently reauthorize LWCF, and the currently proposed legislation is a vital next step to secure LWCF as intended from its inception in 1965. We commend the bipartisan action to introduce this full, permanent, dedicated funding legislation which seeks to ensure continued public access to green and open spaces in PA, in the Highlands Region and across the country,” said Pennsylvania Highlands.

“After years of chronic underfunding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, NJ Audubon is grateful to Congressman Jeff Van Drew for his leadership in proposing legislation in the House that would fully fund LWCF without spending any taxpayer dollars. Congress made a strong statement earlier this year when they voted overwhelmingly to permanently authorize the fund. On the heels of this success, we are thrilled to see legislation moving to fully fund this critical program that provides a great return on investment and will continue connecting people and wildlife,” said Eric Stiles, President and CEO of New Jersey Audubon.

“Full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund will protect our drinking water, preserve our natural and working landscapes, and create public access for people to hike, bike, birdwatch and fish from Cape May to the Highlands, and everywhere in between,” said Carter Strickland, New Jersey Director of The Trust for Public Land. “We thank Congressman Van Drew for his foresight in recognizing that we need to fully fund the LWCF to ensure access to nature for people all across the country.”

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is America's most successful conservation program, helping protect national parks, conserve watersheds and create new outdoor recreation opportunities for communities. But that success has always been hampered by low and inconsistent funding for LWCF. Several bills in the House and Senate will change that by providing full, dedicated funding for LWCF” stated Kameran Onley, director of U.S. Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy.  “Congress delivered a major win for conservation earlier this year when it permanently reauthorized LWCF, and it can deliver another win by ensuring that LWCF has full, dedicated funding. We thank Congressman Van Drew for introducing his full funding bill in the House, and we look forward to working with House and Senate lawmakers to make sure LWCF has the funding it needs to continue conserving our treasured natural landscapes for generations to come.”