It is hard to put a value on our public lands and the fish and wildlife habitat that belong to all Americans, but the economic impact is clear. Outdoor recreation fuels $887 billion in economic activity each year and generates 7.6 million jobs. Public lands are the corpus of this enormous asset. Visits to BLM-managed lands alone results in $3 billion in total economic output.
Public lands aren’t just the places we hunt, fish and find ourselves, they are big business and it is time for Congress make an investment in the future of our public lands hunting and fishing heritage. They can do this in two ways:
1. Provide full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
2. Pass legislation to address the $20 billion maintenance backlog on our public lands.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was established by Congress in 1964 with purpose of preserving, developing and assuring access to outdoor recreation resources. The fund does this by dedicating a portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas development to further conservation efforts and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans. In February 2019, Congress approved permanent authorization of LWCF as part of a public lands package named in honor of Congressman John Dingell. Now it is time to take the next step and ensure, full dedicated funding so the program continues to support hunting, fishing and recreation for generations to come. The Land and Water Conservation Fund Permeant Funding Act has broad bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress with nearly 300 cosponsors. The bill would provide $900 million per year for conservation and outdoor recreation projects.
The public lands maintenance backlog has been mounting for decades and is now estimated at $20 billion, with the Park Service share alone nearly $12 billion. Unmaintained roads are chronic sources of sediment and non-functioning road crossings are migration barriers for trout and salmon. Consider that the Forest Service alone has 370,000 miles of roads and 13,000 bridges and it’s easy to see how this is a big problem for coldwater fisheries. Currently the House and Senate are considering the Restore Our Parks Act, which has over 380 cosponsors and would provide $6.5 billion to help the Park Service address its $12 billion maintenance backlog. However, other land management agencies also have mounting backlogs and Congress shouldn’t pick favorites – all of our public land management agencies need funding to take care of our public lands.
Take action today to let your members of Congress know that you support full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and ask that all of our public land management agencies receive the funding they desperately need to be effective land stewards.
Good for hunters and anglers:
There are two requirements for quality hunting and fishing opportunities: healthy habitat and access – LWCF provides for both. LWCF funds are used to do things like develop fishing access sites, purchase state game lands for hunting or placing conservation easements on private lands with interested landowners.
What does it cost tax payers?
Not a dime. Because the funds for LWCF are primarily paid for by oil and gas leasing in the Outer Continental Shelf, it cost taxpayers nothing and benefits them entirely.
Deferred maintenance by the numbers:
As of 2018, the total maintenance backlog for public lands approached $20 billion.
– $11.92 billion for the Park Service
– $5.2 billion for the Forest Service
– $1.3 billion for the Bureau of Land Management
– $1 billion for the Fish and Wildlife Service