Image from a Vara Loka Ambassador trip to the Adirondacks
|TLDR||Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah singlehandedly killed the successful, 50-year-old Land & Water Conservation Fund|
The Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), popularly regarded as one of the United States’ most successful land conservation programs, quietly expired this September after 50 happy years.
Despite sweeping bipartisan support and a deadline that came as a surprise to no one, Congress decided not to act and reauthorize the program. Thanks to Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who took over this year as chairman of the House’s Natural Resources Committee, offshore oil and gas producers are off the hook and will no longer be responsible for funding the program. Furthermore, now that the funding connection has expired, due to the nature of Congress currently it would likely be very difficult to renew.
Several months ago, dozens of representatives from both major political parties signed a letter in support of LWCF, which has to this day conserved more than seven million acres. LWCF purchases wildlife habitat and private inholdings within wildernesses and national parks, preserves cultural heritage sites, provides public access for fishing and hunting, and pays for urban parks, playgrounds, and sports fields. And, prior to its expiration, was paid for entirely by oil companies drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf.
Interestingly enough, reauthorization would pass both the House and Senate with bipartisan majorities if it came to a vote. Alas, a vote never came because Rep. Rob Biship had the authority to kill the program on his own.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona blasted the House in a statement: “You can see just how extreme some House Republicans really are when a popular conservation program with a spotless, fifty-year history of bipartisan reauthorization expires thanks to their partisan games. They can’t pass a highway bill, they can’t fund the government, they’re still struggling with a defense bill, and now they insist that LWCF funding has to stop.”
“This is a sad day for everyone who cares about our national parks and outdoor conservation, recreation and wildlife. Congress has broken an enduring promise to the American people,” said Alan Rowsome, senior director at the Wilderness Society and co-chair of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, in a statement.
The bright side is that people and organizations, like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, aren’t rolling over and accepting this. They’re going to fight back. And so are we. And we hope you will, too. Visit LWCFcoalition.org to join the fight and take action.