What is the Land and Water Conservation Fund and why should you care?
Second part first: why you should care.
The LWCF was the funding vehicle used by the Western Rivers Conservancy to secure the Doll Baby Ranch located along the East Verde River. The East Verde is the hidden crown jewel of the Verde River system and is a haven for 10 species of native fish and hundreds of species of native wildlife.
Had the Doll Baby Ranch been sold to a private party, public access to thousands of acres of the Mazatzal Wilderness and the Tonto National Forest as well as access to the popular Crackerjack Mine Loop Road would have been lost.
The Western River Conservancy bought the Doll Baby Ranch using LWCF dollars and then transferred the Doll Baby Ranch to the Tonto National Forest, thus securing public access to some of Arizona’s highest valued trails, streams and outdoor recreation areas like the Mazatzal Wilderness, the Verde Wild and Scenic River Corridor, and the Arizona National Historic Trail.
For the 5 million visitors to the Tonto National Forest each year, maintaining this public access ensures the reason they visit and their opportunity to do so will continue for generations to come.
Public access to public lands is becoming more and more restricted across the west. According to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, more than 9.5 million public land acres are off-limits to the public. Opening access to this public land is one of the goals of the LWCF.
The LWCF reached a milestone last year when Congress finally made the LWCF a permanent part of the federal conservation program.
The next step is to make the funding of the LWCF permanent as well. The LWCF is funded by offshore oil and gas lease money. Unfortunately, the LWCF has been shortchanged by Congress due to annual funding debates. The LWCF is supposed to be funded by $900 million in oil and gas lease money each year, but Congress over the years has re-directed LWCF money -- to the tune of $22 billion over the LWCF’s 50-year history -- to non-conservation purposes, leaving the LWCF high and dry. Make the funding permanent and the LWCF will finally live up to its potential.
With this is mind, there are two bills in need of your support: the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act, S.1081 and HB3195.
Please take the time to support these bills and let the LWCF secure more public access to your public lands.