October 28, 2019
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Member of Congress,
On behalf of our millions of members and supporters in the Conservation Voter Movement, we write to express our strong support for our nation’s best parks and lands program: the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The permanent reauthorization of LWCF earlier this year was a clear victory for our national, state and local parks, and public lands, as the program will now be around for the long haul. But permanent reauthorization is only half the battle because it does not guarantee funding for LWCF. As Congress debates government funding this fall, we urge you to seize the momentum from the reauthorization victory to enact legislation providing full, permanent, and dedicated funding for LWCF as part of the broader appropriations package.
LWCF began as a simple idea: so long as this country allows offshore drilling, some of the royalties should offset the damage from that activity and go toward preserving our lands and waterways. Since its creation in 1965, LWCF has provided funding to create state and local parks; improve access to public lands; conserve farms and forests; protect national parks, wildlife refuges, trails, and other public lands. From iconic landscapes such as the Grand Canyon to places such as the Martin Luther King National Historical Park to neighborhood ball fields across the country, communities in almost every county nationwide have been able to access public spaces thanks to projects supported by LWCF – all without using taxpayer funds. What’s more, LWCF helps to address a legacy of injustice that has resulted in certain communities, oftentimes low-income communities and communities of color, lacking access to nearby green spaces.
Although lawmakers have recognized the vitality of LWCF for communities nationwide, full, permanent, and dedicated funding is necessary to fulfill the intent of the program. LWCF has long been authorized to receive $900 million annually but much of LWCF’s intended funds have been diverted to programs other than conservation nearly every single year. In FY2018, LWCF was funded at $425M – less than half of LWCF’s full intended funding – and in the program’s 50+ years of existence, $22B have been diverted.
The need to guarantee LWCF’s funding has never been more urgent. The persistent loss of our nation’s natural areas due to human activity is accelerating at an alarming rate: from 2001 to 2017, roughly a football field worth of natural area disappeared every 30 seconds. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) lands and climate report highlighted the need to protect lands as they are being affected by climate change and harness the power of public lands to absorb emissions and provide added resiliency to our communities. And, according to a recent UN report, habitat destruction and climate change are two of the top reasons that over a million species worldwide are at risk of extinction in the next decades.
Furthermore, LWCF’s funding is frequently targeted to quietly undercut this popular bipartisan program. Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed a negative funding amount in its FY20 budget proposal. While Congress is poised to reject this most recent effort to gut the program, LWCF funding remains vulnerable to future attacks. In light of the rapid loss of our natural areas and species, the need to take action on the climate crisis, and the consistent Trump Administration attacks, it is imperative to deepen our commitment to our most popular and effective public lands program.
For generations, people across the country have enjoyed, benefitted from, and worked to protect our nation’s lands and waters. As we approach the end of the fiscal year, we urge Congress to commit to protect and enhance these incredible places by fully funding LWCF at $900M each and every year.
Thank you for considering our views.
League of Conservation Voters
California League of Conservation Voters
Connecticut League of Conservation Voters
Florida Conservation Voters
Georgia Conservation Voters
Conservation Voters for Idaho
Illinois Environmental Council
Maine Conservation Voters
Maryland League of Conservation Voters
Environmental League of MA
Michigan League of Conservation Voters
Montana Conservation Voters
Nebraska Conservation Voters
Nevada Conservation League
New Jersey League of Conservation Voters
Conservation Voters New Mexico
New York League of Conservation Voters
North Carolina League of Conservation Voters
Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund
Oregon League of Conservation Voters
Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania
Conservation Voters of South Carolina
Vermont Conservation Voters
Virginia League of Conservation Voters
Washington Conservation Voters
Wisconsin Conservation Voters
 David M. Theobald and others, “Loss and fragmentation of natural lands in the coterminous U.S. from 2001 to 2017” (Truckee, CA: Conservation Science Partners, 2019), available at https://www.csp-inc.org/public/CSP%20Disappearing%20US%20Exec%20Summary%20011819.pdf.