Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the Senate's authorization of an amendment that provides a major boost to dedicated investments for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the nation's premier land conservation program. The bipartisan measure, which passed this week by a vote of 76-22 and was included in a pending transportation bill, will provide $700 million a year for the next two years for recreation trails, expanding local and national parks, preserving historic battlefields and cultural sites, and conserving working forests, farms, and ranches.
If enacted into law, these investments should go to a variety of high-priority conservation projects in Washington state including finalizing the expansion of Mt. Rainier National Park and continued investments in protecting the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, and Pysht Coastal Forest. Washington state's varied landscapes and parks provide a boost to the state's economy. Every year, more than 2.7 million people hunt, fish and participate in wildlife watching in Washington state. This contributes $3 billion to the state's economy and overall outdoor recreation generates more than $11.7 billion for the state every year, while supporting 115,000 jobs.
"This is great news for all Washingtonians who love our wildlife, green spaces, and wild public lands," said Cantwell. "We are known as the Evergreen State for a reason. Washington's rich landscape of forests, waters, and mountains is a key component of the quality of life we all enjoy and helps attract and maintain world class talent that boosts our local economy. This bill would continue our tradition of preserving our natural landscapes in ways that keep them accessible to the public. Washington's landscape is crucial to our local economy and plays a big role in making our state a destination for business and tourists alike."
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funds the purchase and development of parks, wildlife refuges, and recreation resources. There are two components to the program. The federal component of the LWCF provides funding for additions to National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests, and other federal public lands, making it the principal source of funds for federal acquisition of lands for outdoor recreation, habitat preservation, and expanding federal land holdings. A state component of the program provides matching grants to states and localities for investments in outdoor recreation facilities such as parks and playfields.
For over the past 47 years, the LWCF has provided funding to protect Washington's special places and to ensure access for hunting, fishing and other recreational outdoor activities. The program has invested nearly half a billion dollars for state and federal land conservation projects throughout Washington state since 1965. The program was originally created that year by former U.S. Senator from Washington state Henry "Scoop" Jackson to set aside land for preservation and recreation. Those include investments for Mt. Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades national parks, as well as the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway/I-90 Corridor, Cascade Ecosystems and the Pacific Crest Trail.
Cantwell has long championed protecting and investing in America's natural resources. She is a cosponsor of The Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act, which would strengthen the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) by guaranteeing full funding instead of subjecting it to the annual appropriations process.
Cantwell also introduced legislation last November to preserve Washington's last remaining pristine forestlands. The Roadless Area Conservation Act would codify the 2001 Presidential rule that applies to nearly 60 million acres of roadless national forest lands in 38 states, including about 2 million acres in Washington state.