After 50 years of funding recreation projects across the country, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has expired because Congress did not reauthorize it before Sunday.
“We are extremely disappointed that Congress is letting one of the most popular and bipartisan programs which supports our nation’s public lands and outdoor recreation opportunities expire before the November elections,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).
OIA was joined by more than 280 other outdoor-focused businesses in sending a letter to Congress urging them to fully fund the LWCF. But the push started long before then. When the fund ran out in 2015, Congress extended it temporarily for three years. And conservationists and outdoor rec advocates began asking for support.
The LWCF was considered America's premier federal program that reinvested offshore energy revenue into conservation projects. The Department of the Interior data shows that the fund helped more than 40,000 state projects totaling 2.37 million acres protected and it used $3.9 billion in state grants.
“Our public lands are one of our nation’s underlying unifiers, not to mention that they help to fuel the growing $887 billion outdoor recreation economy," Roberts continued in her statement. "We were glad to see the leadership from Congressman Bishop and Senator Murkowski to take up LWCF in their committees and we remain hopeful that Congress will do right by our nation’s outdoors and fully fund and permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund when they return after the elections. In the meantime, OIA will use every tool at its disposal to inform our members and local communities about LWCF’s impact to their daily lives and why it is vital to get it reauthorized and fully funded. We urge everyone who cares about our public lands to contact their representatives in Congress and tell them to get LWCF reauthorized once and for all.”
While the news is a major blow, OIA promises that the fight is not over.