The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) expired on September 30. After a mighty effort to pass it by the end of this session, it failed to materialize on December 19. Alas, there is no end-of-session public lands package. Now the next huge effort will be to get it passed early in this new Congress—with permanent, dedicated funding. LWCF has been an important part of Colorado’s conservation and outdoor recreation landscape for severeal decades. It has provided nearly $270 million to help conserve some of Colorado’s most special open spaces, improve access to several national parks such as Rocky Mountain National Park and national forests such as White River National Forest, and is necessary to help fund non-motorized trails and state and local parks.
LWCF permanent and dedicated funding will help ensure recreational access as the state’s population increases. Colorado’s population is projected to increase from the current 5.6 million to 8.5 million by 2050.
LCWF was established by Congress in 1964. The revenue is from a small portion of the royalties on offshore oil and gas development. That is, it is NOT funded with taxpayer dollars. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation generates $28 billion in consumer spending per year in Colorado and supports 229,999 jobs, which in turn generate $9.7 billion in wages and salaries, and it produces $2 billion annually in stae and local tax revenue.
More than 70 percent of Coloradans engage in outdoor recreation. If LWCF is not reauthorized with dedicated full funding the impact to Colorado’s robust outdoor recreation economy will be significant and state and community projects will be affected.
Both Senator Bennet and Senator Gardner strongly supported reauthorization of LWCF. On the House side, the co-sponsors of H.R. 502 are Representatives Coffman, DeGette, Perlmutter and governor-elect Polis. Rep. Tipton has added his support.