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Conservation Groups Want Congress to Make Good on LWCF Promises

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has funded projects across Wyoming, including Glendo State Park. (Wikimedia Commons)
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has funded projects across Wyoming, including Glendo State Park. (Wikimedia Commons)
October 25, 2019

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Conservation groups are pressing Congress to make good on promises to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which taps a portion of offshore drilling fees to ensure recreational access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities on public lands.

Jayson O'Neill, deputy director of the Western Values Project, says Wyoming's national parks and public lands programs are stuck in limbo, with roads full of potholes and campground bathrooms in disrepair.

O'Neill says it is time for Congress to do its job.

"We've seen a lot of promises made by Western senators,” says O’Neill. “But when it comes to the rubber hitting the road and actually getting it done, despite those promises, Congress hasn't acted on this critical fund."

Congress permanently reauthorized the fund in March, but the Trump administration's proposed budget has nearly zeroed out money for the parks and public lands fund. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt recently announced $170 million in state grants through the fund, or less than 20% of the $900 million available annually.

O'Neill says since the fund's inception in 1964, Congress only has allocated the full amount collected from offshore oil and gas royalties a handful of times, meaning some $22 billion meant to support America's public lands, parks and public access points have been diverted.

As Wyoming hunters head out to chase elusive mule deer or elk, O'Neill says Congress has an obligation to ensure that future generations can access lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service.

"Those are access points that haven't seen the investment that should be made by Congress to maintain those and make sure that those are still viable places that can be used for people to go out and share outdoor heritage with the next generation,” says O’Neill.

Wyoming has received more than $130 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund over the past fifty years to protect places including Grand Teton National Park, the National Elk Refuge and Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area. The program also has supported hundreds of projects across Wyoming, including Glendo, Hot Springs and Keyhole state parks.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY