Rallying support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund

It might have been a cold, rainy few days in Hartford, Connecticut, but inside the Land Trust Alliance Rally’s convention center people from all across the nation and world were full of energy and enthusiasm. Participating in seminars covering every conceivable topic related to land protection as well as visiting diverse exhibitor tables, people were abuzz with new ideas for saving and protecting our land and water.

Surrounding myself with more than 1,500 conservationists, I was excited and motivated at the palpable energy each day. Our exhibitor’s booth for the Land and Water Conservation Fund drew in people from all over the world — some who work on land acquisition in Buenos Aires, Argentina, students from Yale’s graduate forestry program, and even Fish and Wildlife Service directors.

They all asked the same questions: “How can I help? What can I do?” I would quickly hand these new advocates a postcard which consisted of a simple message urging the Senate to support LWCF in legislation this year. One card at a time, we grew our numbers of advocates seeking full funding for LWCF.

LWCF is not only a critical program that works, but is a vital funding source for open space and places to play that are available to all citizens in every state. Funding for LWCF is paid through royalties from offshore oil and gas producers and helps balance the negative effects of offshore drilling. Despite its effectiveness, LWCF has been raided by Congress every year since it was first passed in 1964. Appropriated at $900 million annually, LWCF only receives an average of $313 million per year — and most years even less. This leaves important land and water at risk of development and destruction.

Bringing in leaders of land conservation and the environment such as Tom Strickland, chief of staff to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, he echoed the LWCF coalition’s sentiments.

“We’re finding some extraordinary opportunities to land that were really slated to be a sub-division or a resort development,” he said. “Beautiful properties on lakes, oceans, rivers and mountains are now available at a price we would never have dreamed of three years ago.”

Leaving the LTA rally, I felt rejuvenated and excited to connect with our new partners and advocates, all of whom have promised to return to their home states and meet with their senators to urge for LWCF to finally cross the finish line this year. One enthusiastic advocate at our exhibitor table grabbed a stack of postcards and said, “I am bringing these back for our entire office and will hand deliver them to Senator Scott Brown myself!”

The successes of LWCF are due in no small part to the multitude of land trusts, sportsman groups, and diverse environmental organizations, to name a few, who have shown true and genuine dedication to preserving the integrity of our land, water and recreation by urging their senators to pass LWCF now.