Now That LWCF is Permanent, It’s Time We Fund It
By John D’Andrea, Senior Vice President, External Affairs, Georgia Power
Our lands and waters are more than just our country’s beautiful natural features. They are the very foundation of our security, way of life and all life itself.
That is why in 1964, Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which balances the use of one public resource – offshore oil and gas– by dedicating some of the drilling revenues to conserving lands and waters for future generations.
Since LWCF’s enactment, forests, open spaces, watersheds and other landscapes in every state have been protected. Several national parks along with hundreds of trails and athletic fields across the country owe their existence and continuity to LWCF. All these places have helped boost local economies and create jobs.
Georgia has received approximately $354 million in LWCF funding over the past five decades, protecting places such as Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, Cumberland Island National Seashore, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta.
Despite these important conservation wins, the fund was never permanent, stuck in a cycle of expiration and renewal that created uncertainty for landowners wanting to preserve their properties. But in February, Congress voted by overwhelming margins to approve a public lands package that included permanent reauthorization of LWCF, and the package was signed into law March 12th.
Georgia senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue both voted in favor of LWCF in keeping with their previous support of public lands. Senator Isakson is a celebrated champion of public parks and his contributions will be missed when he retires.
The overwhelmingly bipartisan votes in the House and Senate reflect our nation’s longstanding commitment to conservation, ensuring future generations will benefit from LWCF.
Now that LWCF’s future is secure, we need Congress to fund it.
One of LWCF’s greatest strengths is that for all the benefits it brings to communities and our natural world, it doesn’t cost taxpayers a cent. Current law authorizes LWCF to receive up to $900 million per year, but it has almost never been funded at that level.
Like the cycle of expiration and renewal, this underfunding has hampered LWCF, delaying property acquisitions for years and raising the risk of losing more important lands and waters.
Luckily, we are already seeing signs of progress. Bipartisan groups of lawmakers in both the House and Senate have introduced legislation to fully fund LWCF.
Fully funding LWCF will not only be good for the conservation of Georgia’s open spaces, it makes sense for our state’s economy. The outdoor recreation economy in Georgia alone is responsible for $27.3 billion in consumer spending and 238,000 jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. Implementing LWCF in our community helps boost the economy, create jobs and increase tourism.
Ultimately, LWCF is about preserving the best of America. It has protected lands and waters in Georgia and every other state, but the only way we can realize the potential of America’s best conservation program is for Congress to fully fund it.
The Nature Conservancy urges lawmakers to again demonstrate their commitment to conservation and work together to get LWCF the full, dedicated funding it deserves. Click here to tell YOUR representative to fully fund the LWCF right away!
As an employee of Georgia Power—a key supporter of conservation in our state—and as a trustee of The Nature Conservancy of Georgia, I am proud to lend my voice to this effort.