I just returned from Washington, D.C., where I spoke with our members of Congress about the importance of investing in conservation and outdoor recreation through a little-known federal program with huge impacts: the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The fund provides essential tools to maintain working forests and jobs in the woods; preserve rural character; and also help build local parks, trails and protect wild spaces – a win-win for everyone.
This year, Washington needs $6 million to protect the Pysht River on the Olympic Peninsula and the South Puget Sound Coastal Forest on Hood Canal.
For forest products companies, these grants provide a key tool to develop a conservation partnership that preserves both jobs and wildlife habitat. LWCF is paid for through a small percentage of offshore energy royalties, not taxpayer dollars. The $900 million meant for LWCF is a small investment with broad benefits for tourism, rural development and natural resources.
However, most of the funds have been repeatedly diverted to other purposes, leaving communities without critical funding. The clock is ticking; the program will sunset next year without congressional action.
It was heartening to meet with staff for Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, who have co-sponsored a bill to renew and fully fund LWCF; Congressman Denny Heck, who is working hard to ensure the program’s future; and the rest of our delegation. The rest of Congress should follow their lead to invest in our natural heritage before these places are lost forever.