Congress allowed the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), America’s most effective conservation program to expire on Oct. 1. It’s hard to understand how a program that has strong bipartisan support and has provided over $235 million for outdoor recreation and conservation in Arizona was not reauthorized. Americans lose over $15 million weekly of funds that would be available for local community parks and the conservation of public lands. It’s time for Congress to permanently reauthorize the program and provide for full funding. The benefits of the LWCF program can be found in virtually every community in our state. Access and recreation opportunities have been enhanced at the Grand Canyon National Park, Saguaro National Park, Lake Mead Recreation Area, Coconino National Forest, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. Hundreds of additional recreation projects have occurred on our state and community parks in nearly every community in Arizona.
For more than 50 years, the LWCF has delivered on-the-ground conservation achievements to communities across our state. In particular, benefits to rural America and the small communities that depend upon the hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation economy for economic development depend on this key program. In addition, urban opportunities to get our youth outdoors will suffer significant losses without the reauthorization of the program. Outdoor recreation supports 210,000 jobs, generates $5.7 billion in wages and salaries and produces $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenues. Over 1.5 million people participate in hunting, fishing and wildlife watching in Arizona, and they contribute over $2.1 billion to the state’s economy.
LWCF is not funded by taxpayer dollars but from fees collected from offshore oil and gas extraction. Let’s not break the 50-year-old promise to the American people to invest a small portion of the royalties generated from offshore oil and gas drilling to enhance our national parks, state parks, community recreation programs, hunting and fishing access, trails and open spaces. Please thank Congressman Grijalva for his leadership on this key issue and contact your congressional representative asking for their support of the permanent reauthorization and funding for of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.