You may have noticed that we’ve been talking a lot about the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) lately. Well, thanks to your tireless support, LWCF reauthorization passed Congress in February, and last month President Trump signed the bill to permanently authorize this critical program.
LWCF was enacted in 1965 to help preserve, develop and ensure access to outdoor recreation. Since then, the LWCF State Assistance Program has provided funding for more than 40,000 projects, a total of more than $4 billion going to states, territories and local communities. In fiscal year 2017 alone, the LWCF State Assistance Program provided more than $110 million in funding to states and localities. This included $12 million going directly to urban areas.
NRPA and our members have been fighting for years to help secure a permanent reauthorization of LWCF, as well as a guaranteed 40 percent in funding for the LWCF State Assistance Program — which is included in this bill. This is a huge, long-fought victory for NRPA members and the communities you serve.
The widespread bipartisan support and the president’s signing of this bill — formerly known as the Natural Resources Management Act, but renamed the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act — puts us one step closer to making access to great parks a reality for all.
But, the work isn’t over…
We still need to make sure that when Congress makes spending decisions, it sticks to the agreement the president signed in March and that it fully funds the program. President Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget request is, yet again, asking Congress to make deep cuts to the program, and we will need your help in the future to ensure these cuts aren’t made.
Along those same lines, President Trump has proposed slashing funding for LWCF in previous budgets, but because of broad bipartisan support for LWCF, his cuts haven’t been enacted into law. In other words, we don’t need to lose any sleep over the proposed cuts just yet, but soon we’ll be asking you to remind Congress why LWCF is important to you and your community.
So, for now, give yourself a nice, big pat on the back. You spoke up and your voice was heard. You showed the power of advocating for something that you truly believe in — and something that is benefiting communities nationwide. Together, we really can save the future of outdoor recreation — and it’s because of your dedication that that future is extremely bright.
Cort Jones (he/him/his) is NRPA’s Communications Manager and Host of Open Space Radio.