WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the decade’s largest public lands package, which protects millions of acres of land and hundreds of miles of wild rivers across the country, as well as establishes four new national monuments and permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Senate Bill 47, otherwise known as The Natural Resource Management Act, passed out of the Senate on Feb. 12 by a vote of 92 to 8 and would finally secure the future for the expired LWCF, which has been one of the most effective tools in conservation and in establishing access to the outdoors without a cost to taxpayers.
“For many Latinos and other diverse urban communities, sites funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund often provide their only means to experience the outdoors,” said Maite Arce, President and CEO of 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.”
For over half a century, LWCF has served to protect America’s greatest treasures: from national parks of outstanding beauty to historic sites embodying our nation’s past. 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 at the federal, state and community level across the country, in addition to helping to protect more than 2.2 million acres of national parks.
“LWCF has touched the lives of so many across the nation – you likely live mere minutes from a site supported by it,” said Arce. “LWCF represents a promise to the American people to conserve our public lands and ensure that everyone has access to them. Let’s make sure we keep that promise.”
Passed with strong bipartisan support in 1964 for an original term of 50 years, LWCF has suffered at the hands of political gamesmanship and the lack of a long-term solution creates an unstable funding future for parks and projects, which also hinders the investment of private dollars in new projects. LWCF is funded through offshore oil and gas royalties at no cost to taxpayers, but the 115th Congress failed to reauthorize LWCF before it expired at the end of Sept. 2018.
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.