Pa.’s Fitzpatrick backs bill to permanently pay for Land Water Conservation Fund | Friday Morning Coffee

June 14, 2019 7:17 am

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, joined with a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the U.S. House on Thursday to roll out a proposal to permanently fund a popular federal conservation program — all without spending any taxpayer money.

During a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol, Fitzpatrick, of Bucks County, said his plan to permanently pay for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, at a cost of $900 million annually. The money would come from “a small portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas royalty payments,” he said.
“Since its establishment over 50 years ago, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has promoted recreational activity and contributed to our nation’s robust economy, along with conserving our national parks, forests, and critical wildlife areas,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement released by his office, “I fought for reauthorization of this fund which affects 98 percent of counties in the United States and encompasses 1 in 15 American jobs. Now I’m fighting to fully fund the LWCF so we can address conservation and recreational access needs across the country.”

Funding for the federal program expired last September, much to the consternation of environmentalists, who have called it “one of the country’s most important conservation programs.

Congress voted to reauthorize the program. But, predictably, it didn’t come up with a permanent funding source, according to published reports.

And that’s a big deal because smart conservation means a good economy. Outdoor recreation, conservation and historic preservation activities contribute more than $887 billion annually to the U.S. economy, supporting 7.6 million jobs, according to data released by Fitzpatrick’s office.

“Over its 50-year history, the LWCF has given Americans the opportunity to make memories hunting, fishing, camping and otherwise enjoying our public lands, together. As the father of a 2-year-old who lives in the shadow of South Mountain Park, I know firsthand the importance of sharing our special public places with the next generation, and I look forward to the memories my son and I will make together exploring the outdoors as he grows,” U.S. Rep. Reuben Gallego, D-Ariz., a co-sponsor, wrote in a Thursday op-Ed for The Hill, a publication that covers Congress.

Environmentalists welcomed the news.

“Protecting our public lands for future generations is essential, but it’s by no means guaranteed, especially as long as these funds are redirected away from their intended uses,” Jonathan Asher, the government relations director at theWilderness Society, and a spokesman for the LWCF Coalition, said in a statement.

Congress permanently reauthorized the LWCF, as it’s known in Washington shorthand, because “people across the country overwhelmingly support LWCFand the benefits it provides to communities,” Tiernan Sittenfeld, of the League of Conservation Voters, said .

“Now it’s time to keep up the momentum and ensure LWCF gets the funding it deserves. The LWCF deserves full, guaranteed funding at $900 million every single year so our growing population can have more parks and public lands to boost the outdoor recreation economy and quality of life for all communities.  We thank Rep. Fitzpatrick for his leadership on this legislation,” he said.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.