A key Senate panel has voted to fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a move that conservation groups see as a significant victory.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee voted Tuesday morning to permanently authorize and completely fund the program, which was established in 1964 to help with outdoor projects on public lands. The bill passed with bipartisan support out of the committee and now faces a full floor vote.
The LWCF, which was permanently reauthorized this spring, receives most of its revenue from on- and offshore oil and gas drilling. The House Natural Resources Committee in June passed a bipartisan bill that, if signed into law, would dedicate $900 million of annual royalty funds to LWCF.
Members on both sides of the aisle celebrated the move, calling it an important step to continue to invest in public lands.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has played a large role in protecting Tennessee’s outdoors for over 50 years,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in a statement. “In total, the LWCF has provided over $200 million to conservation and outdoor recreation efforts in Tennessee.
“I’m glad the committee voted to fully fund the LWCF because it will help preserve our state’s beautiful land, water resources and recreation areas for generations to come,” he continued.
The Senate committee also passed out of panel the Restore Our Parks Act, a bill drafted to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at national parks.
Conservation groups called the passage of LWCF permanent funding a crucial step.
“Today’s committee passage of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanent funding bill is a crucial step to secure full, permanent, and dedicated funding for our national, state and local parks, and to ensure access to green spaces for all communities in our country,” Laura Forero, legislative representative for the League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement.
“Fully and permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund keeps a promise to the American people, that this important and effective conservation tool will be available for future generations,” added Kameran Onley, director of U.S. government relations at The Nature Conservancy.
“For over 50 years, LWCF has protected national parks, preserved watersheds and created new outdoor recreation opportunities for communities ready to experience the outdoors. We are eager to continue this successful program,” she continued.
Updated 1:46 p.m.