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Home | Tag Archives: Land and Water Conservation Fund

Tag Archives: Land and Water Conservation Fund

Texas Parks Department, Advocates Pushing Congress to Reauthorize Key Conservation Fund

With Congress set to adjourn next week, parks advocates are pushing for lawmakers to revive a half-century-old program that has pumped more than a half-billion dollars into Texas’ parks and natural areas.

Congress let the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) expire on Sept. 30. The fund — established in 1964 to support the maintenance of national parks, wildlife refuges and trails, as well as state and local parks — has supplied Texas with more than $577 million.

Popular destinations like San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Big Thicket National Preserve, Devils River State Natural Area, Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge and the Sabine National Forest have all benefited.

The LWCF Coalition, a group pushing for reauthorization, said more than $165 million in potential funding has been lost to parks nationally since the fund expired.

Failure to reauthorize the fund will negatively impact Texas’ $52.6 billion outdoor recreation industry, which supports 411,000 jobs and generates $3.5 billion annually in local and state tax revenue, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Texas parks are already underfunded, with an estimated $781 million in deferred maintenance. They need between $50 million and $80 million in repairs every two years, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

The state’s national parks also have more than $167 million in overdue repairs.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department chief Carter Smith said the fund is “an incredibly powerful tool” for conservation work in Texas. He said the department doles out the money to cities and counties to help them acquire and develop public recreation areas.

“The LWCF reauthorization is of immense importance to communities, people and parks across all of Texas,” Smith said. “Funds from the LWCF have been instrumental in aiding the department and our community partners in acquiring and developing much-needed park land to meet the quality of life, recreational and economic needs of a growing Texas. The absence of this highly leveraged, deeply popular funding stream would be a substantial loss for Texas.”

This is the second time in the past three years Congress has let the fund expire. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle appear to be coalescing around a short-term extension for the conservation fund rather than a permanent fix.

The fund has a $900 million cap. It is fed by fees generated from offshore oil and gas development. Congress typically only appropriates a portion of that money.

House lawmakers disagree on language in the Senate version of the LWCF bill, which calls for full funding of the program.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn told Bloomberg Environment last week that a conservation fund extension can move quickly if both parties can get behind either a permanent extension or a one-year reauthorization.

“Anything can happen around here if it’s done by agreement,” said Cornyn, the Senate majority whip.

national poll conducted in November for the National Wildlife Federation found that 74 percent of respondents support reauthorization and funding.

“The poll highlights that Americans are united in their support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Collin O’Mara, the federation’s president and CEO. “Failing to act in the face of this overwhelming support would be a massive missed opportunity for our wildlife and outdoor heritage.”

Disclosure: The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Author: CARLOS ANCHONDO – The Texas Tribune

Businesses Urge Action to Preserve NM’s Special Places

SILVER CITY, N.M. – Canyons, deserts, lava flows, badlands, monuments.

When it comes to public lands, New Mexico has it all, and a group of New Mexico business owners want to make sure it’s all preserved by calling on Congress to renew and fully fund the lapsed Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Dan Roper, a community coordinator for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, spearheaded a letter as well as a video to show the importance of LWCF funding to gateway communities.

He says it might sound like an obscure government program, but New Mexicans have benefitted from investments in outdoor recreation, trails and open spaces where people live and work.

“Whether they realize it or not, sometimes you talk to people about something like LWCF and they’re not very familiar, but if you start talking about the places that have been protected through LWCF investments, then you really make that connection and people start to get it,” he states.

The program is not funded by individual taxpayers, but rather from a small portion of federal royalties from offshore drilling.

Since its creation 54 years ago, the fund has invested more than $312 million in the state.

The letter from area business owners also highlights the effect that expiration of the fund will have on the not-yet-completed Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.

New Mexico is the adopted home of Martyn Pearce, who grew up in England and now co-owns the Gila Hike and Bike shop in Silver City.

After playing golf for Western New Mexico University, he fell in love with the state’s landscape and signed on to the letter because, as a business owner, he has personal experience with the importance of public lands.

“I never thought I’d get to see the stuff I get to go out and see on a daily basis here – canyons, and waterfalls and petroglyphs and cave dwellings, and this whole land across the West is just vast and I find it to be truly fascinating,” he states.

LWCF funding helped conserve the Santa Fe National Forest and Watershed, City of Rocks State Park, Elephant Butte Lake State Park and the Petroglyph National Monument.

Author: Roz Brown, Public News Service – NM

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