Major Victory for Conservation of America’s Great Outdoors
April 20, 2016
As America prepares to celebrate Earth Day, the U.S. Senate passed legislation that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). First passed in 1964, LWCF has been absolutely critical to the conservation of America’s public lands where Americans love to hike, play, and explore.
LWCF funds have protected lands that surround the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and innumerable trails in between. With millions of Americans hearing the call to adventure and going hiking each year, America’s trails and parks remain incredibly popular with the public. Yet, many of these trails remain incomplete or must traverse private lands or sometimes even be routed onto busy roads. With continued LWCF funding these trails can one day be completed and future generations will still have trails to explore: whether a city trail that provides a respite from the urban hustle or a backcountry trail that echoes John Muir’s call to the wilderness.
It should be noted that the Land and Water Conservation Fund does not use taxpayer dollars, but rather utilizes revenues collected by the federal government from offshore oil and gas leases. The idea behind the program’s creation was to use a portion of the income from the depletion of one public resource to conserve another public resource.
American Hiking Society thanks the members of the Senate for passing this legislation and in particular, Energy Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell for their leadership on this issue.
While this was a tremendous victory for LWCF, the energy bill of which this was a part, must still be reconciled with the House’s energy bill. American Hiking Society encourages all Members of Congress to work towards a successful effort that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund in law this year.
Without a doubt, Americans do – and will – continue heed the call of outdoor adventure just as did American explorers such as John Muir and Lewis & Clark. They will continue to seek outdoor adventure, live healthier lives, and establish a closer connection to the natural world. And the permanent reauthorization of LWCF would ensure that when they do hear adventure calling, there will still be public lands to explore and long, dusty trails that will take them there.