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Congress Poised to Renew Land and Water Conservation Fund

An Arkansas couple casts flies in search of rainbow and brown trout in the clear waters of the Buffalo National River. (Arkansas Dept. of Parks and Tourism)
An Arkansas couple casts flies in search of rainbow and brown trout in the clear waters of the Buffalo National River. (Arkansas Dept. of Parks and Tourism)
February 21, 2019

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The U.S. House could vote next week on a package of public lands bills that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The popular federal program, which easily passed in the Senate last week, uses funds from offshore drilling leases to support national parks and wildlife preserves, as well as hiking trails and local parks, including more than $170 million for projects in Arkansas.

Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, says permanently reauthorizing the program would protect and expand access to the outdoors across the country.

"With this passage in the Senate, and hopefully in the House, we will have the number one access tool in perpetuity,” he points out. “Then we can start talking about funding and progress on the ground. But I think that's a huge win for not only hunters and anglers, but anybody that recreates outdoors."

If the current lands package is not approved, the LWCF could be gone forever. In recent years, the fund has restored forests and wetlands in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in the Arkansas Delta.

Tracy Stone-Manning, vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation, says the fund has had a major impact on Americans' access to the outdoors.

"You can argue, rightfully, that our country would look really different if we hadn't had this program, if 50 years ago Congress didn't have enough foresight to say, 'Hey, hold on a second, we need to make sure that Americans get outside and enjoy the outdoors,'” she states. “And that has made our country a better place."

Stone-Manning says continued support and funding is an important part of making sure future generations can continue to enjoy the outdoors.

"Our population is growing, need for open space and need for parks is growing with it,” she stresses. “So, we desperately need this program to continue, so that our kids and our grandkids have the exact same access to parks and wildlife habitat that we have."

Arkansas has an almost $10 billion outdoor recreation industry, which supports 96,000 jobs with $2.5 billion in annual wages and salaries.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR