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Land and Water Conservation Fund Lauded, Defended

The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument in Riverside County is one of dozens of protected areas in California which benefits from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Photo credit: Tommy Hough.
The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument in Riverside County is one of dozens of protected areas in California which benefits from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Photo credit: Tommy Hough.
July 24, 2014

LOS ANGELES – This week marks the 50th anniversary of the vote in Congress which created the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1964, the fund uses royalty money from offshore oil and gas drilling for conservation and recreation projects, in part to help mitigate the environmental damage from resource extraction. The fund is up for reauthorization in 2015.

Former Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett, now managing director for public policy at The Nature Conservancy, says during her eight years with the department she was able to tour the country and see firsthand where the program has made a difference.

"The fund has invested in places where we hunt and fish," says Scarlett, "and in cities the fund offers places for recreation that bring us outside.

LWCF funds have played a significant role in protecting and preserving several prominent large-scale wild areas in California, including Carrizo Plain National Monument in San Luis Obispo and Kern counties, the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument near Palm Desert, and the Otay Mountain Wilderness in San Diego County.

Jay Leutze with the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition says the program creates enormous economic benefits for California and other states.

"Think about the state and federal tax receipts these areas generate," says Leutze. "There's a significant amount of economic activity from outdoor recreation like paddling, hiking, hunting and fishing."

Scarlett is calling for continued funding at current levels, in the face of a far more contentious political climate than when the LWCF was passed in 1964.

"As envisioned by a bipartisan Congress 50 years ago, we need to continue to reinvest those revenues into sustaining our lands, waters and natural resources for the long-term benefit of our communities," she says.

Backers of continued funding and support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, including the Wilderness Society and Nature Conservancy, have created a coalition to push Congress for reauthorization.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA