LWCF Coalition Lauds Jewell for Commitment to Outdoor Economy

In her confirmation hearing today to become Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Sally Jewell today voiced strong support for fulfilling the long-standing American promise that revenues from offshore oil and gas development be used for the protection of parks, open spaces, and trails in communities around the country.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is America’s premier land conservation program, using revenues from offshore oil and gas development—not taxpayer dollars – to conserve parks, open spaces, and wildlife habitat for the benefit of hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation.

In today’s hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. asked Ms. Jewell for her commitment to work with the bipartisan coalition of senators who are developing a long-term solution for LWCF. “It has been chronically underfunded since its creation 50 years ago,” said Udall, noting that, without further action, the program will expire in 2015. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., also stressed the vital importance of LWCF in protecting wildlife, providing access for sportsmen, and bolstering the nation’s enormous outdoor economy.

Jewell noted: “The LWCF has been critical in every county across the country, in terms of bringing resources to bear for public lands, for recreation, and I think was a brilliant piece of legislation when it was enacted in 1964 and I absolutely look forward to working alongside you to support it in the future.”

In their questions for Jewell, both Republican and Democratic senators underscored the importance of land conservation, public land access for sportsmen, and outdoor recreation to the economies of their states.

“The economics of public lands have changed in America,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., chair of the committee. “Recreation has become a big jobs engine, and it will be good for our economy if it grows bigger.” Wyden noted that outdoor recreation in America is a $646 billion industry that brings nearly $40 billion in revenue to the federal treasury.

“It is encouraging to see growing and bipartisan consensus that a small portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas development should finally be invested where Americans were promised they would go: in the parks, open spaces, sportsmen’s access and wildlife habitat that power local economies,” said Will Rogers, president of The Trust for Public Land. “We thank members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for noting the key role that LWCF plays in supporting local economies, and appreciate that Sally Jewell acknowledges the importance of fulfilling LWCF’s commitment to the American people.”

The principle behind LWCF is simple and uniquely American: of the billions of dollars in annual revenues that come from extracting publicly-held oil and gas resources for private development, $900 million are to be reinvested annually in the permanent protection of parks and open spaces for all Americans. Unfortunately, since the program’s enactment in 1965, Congress has diverted billions of dollars for other non-authorized purposes.

Bipartisan legislation, S.338, was recently introduced by Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Wyden—along with a growing group of cosponsors in the Senate, would correct the problem by ensuring that the federal revenues deposited into LWCF are invested as intended for the benefit of local communities, hunters and anglers, and families.

Since its inception, LWCF has helped protect land at some of America’s most iconic and popular places, including our national parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges, where millions of Americans recreate; beaches from Cape Cod, MA and Cumberland Island, GA to Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes; California’s Santa Monica Mountains and Montana’s Glacier National Park; as well as cultural and historic places like the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania and Civil War battlefields and Native American sites.

The program also includes grants to states that support state and local parks and close-to-home recreation areas, working forests and wildlife protection—all of which create and maintain jobs and help communities to attract and keep employers.

The LWCF Coalition comprises conservation, recreation, business, and sportsmen’s groups working together to support the LWCF program in order to meet America’s conservation and recreation needs in the 21st century. For more information on LWCF and the places in each state that have been protected using LWCF funds, visit www.lwcfcoalition.org.