The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
It didn’t receive much attention, but earlier this month, Sen. Martha McSally cast an important vote for all of us who love to fish, hike, hunt, camp and otherwise enjoy Arizona’s beautiful public lands. By voting to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, McSally is supporting a program that has helped create or maintain some of the finest outdoor recreation areas in our state, including the Lake Mead recreation area, the San Pedro ecosystem, the Coconino National Forest and the Patagonia Lake State Park.
Since its creation in 1964, LWCF has supported 41,000 outdoor recreation areas in nearly every county in America. It has funded iconic national parks like the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest, as well as smaller projects such as community ballfields and public access for hunting. In short, LWCF has helped connect people with nature in numerous ways and has helped fuel a booming outdoor recreation economy. In Arizona alone, outdoor recreation generates over $21 billion in consumer spending and supports over 200,000 jobs.
Perhaps most astonishingly, the Land and Water Conservation Fund doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime, but instead gets its funding from offshore oil revenues. It’s entitled to receive $900 million every year, but unfortunately Congress usually diverts most of that money to non-conservation projects. In fact, only twice in the fund’s history has Congress allocated the full amount. That’s why a bipartisan group of lawmakers has proposed a permanent full funding bill. It will take the politics out of this important program and ensure that our parks, forests, trails, hunting and fishing areas will be around for future generations to enjoy.
Earlier this year, Congress voted by an overwhelming margin to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Now Congress needs to keep its promise to the American people and fully fund it.
At a time when there is so much partisan fighting in Washington, it’s good to be reminded that people from both parties strongly support protecting America’s lands, waters and outdoor sporting traditions.
Thank you, Sen. McSally, for voting for America’s favorite conservation program. I urge you to insist that Senate leaders bring this full funding bill to the floor for a vote. And I call on Rep. Raúl Grijalva to do the same on the House side. It’s the right thing to do for public lands, waterways, sportsmen and women, and families everywhere who enjoy exploring the great outdoors.
Scott Garlid is the conservation director for the Arizona Wildlife Federation.
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