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The Land and Water Conservation Fund has protected access to public lands for decades. Sixteen days from its expiration, the House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the LWCF.

The United States enacted the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in 1964. The purpose of the federal program is to conserve, protect, and increase public access to public lands and waterways.

Since it was established, the LWCF has provided more than $4 billion to federal, state, and local governments to fulfill this purpose. Many consider it one of America’s greatest conservation programs. The funds don’t come from taxpayer money but instead from companies drilling offshore for oil. On Sept. 30, 2018, the LWCF would have expired if not reauthorized.

But today, the House of Representatives made a critical step in permanently reauthorizing the LWCF. The committee passed a modified version of bill H.R. 502 in a unanimous vote.

Bill H.R. 502

The colorful hills, flat-topped mesas, and sculptured buttes of the Painted Desert in Petrified Forest National Park; photo by the National Park Service

This marks huge progress for the survival of LWCF and the outdoor communities that depend on it.

The bill authorizes a $900 million annual budget cap, which matches the 1964 allocation. Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) worked together on a compromise that enabled voting on the matter.

LWCF: Moving Forward

“While this is an important milestone, there is more work to be done,” LWCF coalition spokesman Tom Cors said in a press release. “As the clock ticks down on LWCF’s current authorization, we look forward to working with the program’s many House and Senate champions to reauthorize and fully fund LWCF, ensuring that the revenue gained from the depletion of one natural resource is finally dedicated for the permanent protection of our shared outdoor heritage.”

Some public lands advocates applauded the move toward reauthorization. Julia Peebles, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers’ government relations manager, said the group is “thrilled” at the potential reauthorization of the LWCF.

“The fight is not over, however,” Peebles said. “BHA and our partners will redouble our efforts in support of LWCF to ensure that this bill crosses the finish line — and we also will continue our work to secure dedicated funding for America’s most popular and successful conservation and access program.”

With 17 days to go, there are still challenges to face. The bill’s success ensures the LWCF will continue to provide for outdoor recreation, including access to public lands, protection of historic sites, and support of key communities.

Learn more about how the LCWF is protecting our nation’s lands here.

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