The fate of one of the nation’s oldest, most effective conservation programs was deliberated this morning by the U.S. House of Representatives, where heavily criticized legislation has been introduced that would dismantle the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The House Natural Resources Committee met today to consider a draft bill that would torpedo the LWCF, unduly limiting its scope and diminishing or eliminating successful components while reallocating significant monies elsewhere. Members from both sides of the aisle have denounced the legislation, championed by Chairman Rob Bishop of Utah, who led efforts earlier this year to block the LWCF’s re-authorization.
Today, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers reiterated its support of reauthorizing and fully funding the LWCF and condemned Rep. Bishop’s bill.
“Since 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has proven itself our most effective tool for conserving habitat and sustaining public access,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “The fact that outlying interests in Congress blocked reauthorization of the fund is regrettable – yet it redoubles our commitment to finding a path forward for the LWCF and ushering in a new era of pragmatic, results-oriented LWCF-funded projects. Congressman Bishop does not represent the values of a majority of Americans, and Congress should summarily reject his attempted overhaul of the LWCF.”
BHA expressed particular concern about the following erosive elements of Rep. Bishop’s legislation:
infringes on private landowner rights by reducing or eliminating opportunities to create conservation easements or work with partners on projects that would conserve landholdings rather than develop them;
siphons 20 percent of LWCF funds to “workforce education,” such as training programs for corporations that employ oil and gas industry workers;
puts at risk the outdoor recreation jobs that drive a $645 billion economy by placing parks, wildlife refuges and forests on the table for commercial development;
diverts money from efforts to protect and expand access for hunting and fishing and bleeds away critical resources to enhance fish and wildlife habitat, compromising the $90 billion dollars sportsmen and women annually contribute to our nation’s economy.
“Sportsmen’s groups from across the spectrum – including Backcountry Hunters & Anglers – have spoken, and members of Congress should take heed,” said Ryan Busse, a BHA board member who lives in Kalispell, Montana. “There is no better way for our elected officials to support hunters, anglers and our nation’s outdoors-based economy than to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund – while spurning attempts to torpedo, dismantle or otherwise overhaul the LWCF.”
“Outdoor families across America, including Utah, have every reason to prize our public lands and waters and, consequently, care about the fate of the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Moab resident, wildlife biologist and sportsman Robert Magill. “Increased opportunities to hunt and fish in Utah were facilitated by LWCF dollars – including, for example, waterfowling on Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, a project made possible by Representative Bishop himself, who in 2009 requested a half-million dollars in LWCF funds to expand the refuge. How ironic that, today, Mr. Bishop has made it his mission to dismantle the LWCF.”
Created by Congress 50 years ago, the LWCF represents a bipartisan commitment to safeguarding the nation’s outdoor heritage by conserving important fish and wildlife habitat and enhancing public access for recreationists, including hunters and anglers. Utilizing revenues from the development of one natural resource – offshore oil and gas – to support the conservation of another – U.S. lands and waters – the LWCF partners with state and local efforts to bolster America’s parks, wildlife refuges, forests, trails and other public open spaces.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the sportsmen’s voice
for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife