Land and Water Conservation Fund: Will Congress meet its promise?

Thermometer. Photo by rcbodden, Flickr.

The summer of 2010 has been scorching hot in the D.C. area. As the temperature has risen, so has the heat on Congress to fulfill a promise it made 45 years ago — to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

On June 30, Republican Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina stepped out as his party’s leader in this critical fight by urging his colleagues to include LWCF full funding in a larger Senate energy bill. Exactly one month later, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Consolidated Land, Energy and Aquatic Resources (CLEAR) Act of 2009, a major victory for LWCF because it included a provision to fully fund LWCF at its highest funding level possible — $900 million per year!

This is the time and this is the opportunity to continue to urge Congress to address the BP oil spill and keep their promise to all Americans by preserving our precious mountains, forests, lakes and shores. This fund uses revenues generated from offshore oil and gas drilling leases to acquire critical new lands. Keeping the heat on the Senate by calling and meeting with your senator is critical to ensuring LWCF is included in whatever energy legislation is brought to the floor in September. While they were unable to vote on the Senate bill before the recess, we continue to urge and support their leadership to bring this bill back in September.

During the House debate, the floor was on fire as strong champions such as Reps. George Miller (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) spoke on the floor voicing their staunch support for LWCF during the CLEAR Act discussions. LWCF also received tremendous support from House leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Reps. Nick Rahall (D-WV), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and James Clyburn (D-SC). Because of their efforts, the House has transformed the way in which we preserve America’s lands and waters for future generations of Americans.

On the heels of this historic victory in the House, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) were emboldened to introduce their version of the oil spill and energy legislation, the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act of 2010, which includes permanent and dedicated funding for LWCF.

LWCF success was due in no small part to the efforts of the national LWCF Coalition, which fueled the momentum and bipartisan support throughout the last few months. The coalition is comprised of diverse organizations across the country such as sportsman groups, national environmental groups, outdoor industry groups, park and recreation groups and nonprofit organizations with the same goal — protecting America’s great outdoors by providing permanent, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The warm summer months are an ideal time for outdoor adventure and enjoying America’s great outdoors. However, without legislation to keep these lands and waters safe from development and harm, more and more of these recreational opportunities are lost every day. No one likes to see summer come to an end but what’s even worse is the possibility of losing those things that make summer enjoyable. Here’s hoping Congress does the right thing.

photo: Thermometer. Photo by rcbodden, Flickr.