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Murray Commemorates 50th Anniversary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Sep 18 2014

Murray cites Washington state areas enhanced by the LWCF

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) commemorated the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s 50th Anniversary in a statement submitted to the Senate record. In her statement, Murray highlighted how the LWCF has helped protect and preserve natural resources in Washington state and throughout the nation, and discussed the economic and health benefits. Murray also called for re-authorization of the program next year with an independent, dedicated stream of funding, which would have benefits for generations to come.

Full text of Senator Murray’s Statement:

I rise today to speak in support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and to commemorate its 50th anniversary this month. 

Fifty years ago, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, the House and Senate passed and President Johnson signed into law the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act.  

And for 50 years now, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped protect and preserve our nation’s outdoor heritage, all around my home state of Washington and across the country for our children and grandchildren.

The LWCF contains a set of unique tools that empower local communities to increase public access to open space, conserve forests, and protect wilderness areas. These funds help secure permanent, public access to lands and waterways for hikers, bikers, campers, hunters, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts.  Senator Henry Jackson, from my home state of Washington, was one of the drafters of the original legislation.  During debate of the bill on this very floor, he reminded his colleagues of the importance of open space to Americans, that these public lands are “the places they go to hunt, fish, camp, picnic, swim, for boating or driving for pleasure, or perhaps simply for relaxation or solitude.”  And you know, that description still rings true today.

There are many examples of the LWCF at work in my home state of Washington.  LWCF support flowing through its State and Local Assistance grants, Forest Legacy Program, Federal Land Management Agency Projects, and Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund have helped protect over 120,000 acres of land and create or enhance hundreds of recreational facilities.  These funds have gone to a wide variety of projects, from federal wilderness to private working farms and forests, from scenic rivers to urban water parks.  From the Straits of Juan de Fuca to the crest of the Cascades, from the Columbia River Gorge to the Little Spokane River, the LWCF has made my state a better place for future generations. 

But a common thread through all these projects has been the way LWCF funding has brought together local public officials, conservationists, farmers, business leaders, forest owners, and engaged citizens to create and enhance public access to open space and natural areas and help keep sprawl in check, all while allowing for sustained economic growth and development.  Funding from the LWCF were key in allowing for many of the individual acquisitions needed to achieve this, and I am proud to have supported many of these projects which have helped make these communities’ visions a reality.

And it’s important to remember that it isn’t just rural areas in Washington that have been enhanced with resources from the Fund.

Dozens of projects in the hearts of our cities have given children access to much-needed parks, sports fields, and swimming facilities.  Families can now enjoy time together picnicking, biking, and even hiking in forests and other habitats, right outside their doorsteps. 

And we all benefit from the cleaner air and cleaner water that results from these high quality protected lands.  Land and water conservation is good for our health, good for our families, and good for our souls.

But we also know it’s good for our economy.  In 2012, Americans spent over $640 billion on outdoor recreation.  And in Washington alone, outdoor pursuits supported 227,000 direct jobs.

Our nation has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources.  That’s why it makes perfect sense that when we develop some of those energy resources to fuel our economy, we set aside a portion of the royalties generated from that development to protect those other natural resources. But these conservation dollars are more than just outlays, they are also good investments.  Studies have estimated that each dollar invested in land conservation returns between $4 and $10 in economic benefits to the economy.  And we will see this return on investment for generation after generation.

Even with all the good that we see as a result of the LWCF, there is so much more that we could be doing.  That’s because in spite of all the benefits that we receive from LWCF spending, Congress has diverted the bulk of these conservation dollars to unrelated programs.

We ought to fix that.  Next year, the funding authority for the LWCF will expire.  We need to permanently reauthorize this program, and create an independent, dedicated stream of funding for it.  Doing so will benefit all Americans, both now and for generations to come.