For those of us who depend on the outdoors to live, work, and play, conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund are essential to the continued prosperity of our public lands and communities. Earlier this year, Congress passed a sweeping piece of legislation that made this program permanent; however, the fund is not out of the woods yet.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF, is a five-decade legacy program that takes a portion of the revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling and puts it into a fund for recreation and conservation projects all around the country. That’s right: no taxpayer dollars are used for the fund. The fund contributes to recreation and conservation all over the country, including lands such as national parks and forests, land by rivers, lakes and oceans, working forests, farms and ranches, fish and wildlife refuges, trails, and state and local parks.
Over its long history, LWCF has conserved land in every state and supported over 41,000 state and local park projects. Here in South Carolina, LWCF has contributed over $300 million, touching such iconic places as Fort Sumter National Monument, Cape Romain, Congaree National Park, and Francis Marion National Forest as well as sites protected under the Civil War Battlefield Preservation Program.
My business, Outspokin’ Bicycles, has been operating in South Carolina for 29 years. As an avid outdoorsperson, I have had many great experiences on public land while cycling, hiking, hunting and fishing. As a member of the outdoor industry, I know that public lands are essential to the success of my business and others like it. Beyond supporting local businesses, there is huge potential for communities to use LWCF funding to truly prosper for generations to come. Local governments and economic development agencies around the country are using their region’s national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and other public lands as a tool to lure companies to relocate. High-wage industries also are using the nation’s national parks, monuments, wilderness areas and other public lands as a tool to recruit and retain innovative, high-performing talent.
Every year, $900 million is set aside for LWCF. However, year after year, Congress allocates only a fraction of that for conservation and raids the fund for other purposes. In June, a bill (H.R. 3195) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to permanently fund LWCF to its full, $900 million potential, and a companion bill, S. 1081, is currently in the Senate. This is encouraging news; it is funding that allows this program to truly make a difference for local communities. With guaranteed funding in place, LWCF can have an even greater economic impact for our communities here in South Carolina and around the nation.
This is why we must have full funding for LWCF, and why I urge our entire Congressional delegation to support and fight for full funding through H.R. 3195 and S. 1081. The prosperity of our communities depends on a diversification of economic drivers, and outdoor recreation, and by extension the Land and Water Conservation Fund, is essential to that future. I hope our elected officials will support fully funding this win-win program, which has so much to offer South Carolina.