WASHINGTON – While the Land and Water Conservation Fund is now permanently reauthorized, President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for 2020 cuts federal funding for LWCF by more than 100 percent, not only zeroing out the program but rolling back funds previously appropriated by Congress last year — jeopardizing the future of one of America’s most effective conservation programs.
“The administration’s proposed budget does not represent the interests of Americans nor the bipartisan commitment to safeguard our public lands, preserve our cultural heritage and historically significant places, and ensure that everyone has access to these treasured places,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “The Senate and the House unanimously supported the permanent reauthorization of LWCF, which reflects how important this program is to local communities.”
The Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Proposal decreases funding to -$23.45 million for LWCF. This jeopardizes the future of the program, since it does not propose new funding and it takes back some funding that was previously appropriated, cutting a total of $458.45 million from last year's spending (LWCF received $435 million in the 2019 Fiscal Year appropriations bill).
“For many Latinos and other diverse urban communities, sites funded through LWCF often provide their only means to experience the outdoors,” said Chela Garcia, Director of Conservation Programs at Hispanic Access Foundation. “From having places to connect with nature, spend time with family, enjoy outdoor recreation or explore their cultural heritage, LWCF isn’t just about protecting pieces of land or providing specific resources for development, it’s about the connection we have with these places and what they represent for each individual and community.”
Created in 1964 with strong bipartisan support, LWCF is funded through offshore oil and gas royalties at no cost to taxpayers. While LWCF funding is capped at $900 million, Congress determines its annual allocation. Without LWCF, current and future protected lands and water sources would be left without the financial resources to remain protected. For local economies benefiting from consistent visitors who recreate on public lands supported by LWCF, this cut to the program’s funding would put the stability of these tourism and recreation industries at risk. The lack of funding for this program would also jeopardize the preservation of culturally significant places that tell a more complete and inclusive history of our country and the contributions of underrepresented communities to the fabric of our nation.
“We ask Congress once again to stand up for all Americans and support full and dedicated funding for LWCF, otherwise the promise of the program will continue to be unfulfilled,” said Arce. “We must work together, and we absolutely need to engage diverse voices to ensure that our senators and representatives in Congress act with urgency and include in their appropriations agenda full dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”
For over half a century, LWCF has successfully safeguarded countless acres of natural resources, enhanced access to public lands, preserved our historical legacy, and supported local economies by boosting tourism. To this day, LWCF has helped protect more than 100 national battlefields in 42 states, supported over 42,000 parks and recreation projects across the country, in addition to helping protect more than 2.2 million acres of national parks.
Hispanic Access explores the relationship Latino and diverse communities have with LWCF in the film Land, Water y Comunidad and through a whitepaper of the same name that profiles ten LWCF locations around the country and why the fund’s support matters.