A coalition of seventeen organizations that advocate for healthier communities and active lifestyles have put their shoulders behind the push to expand outdoor opportunities for kids, by fully and permanently funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The groups — including the American Heart Association, the NAACP, and the U.S. Soccer Foundation — sent a letter to First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell last week, encouraging them to ratchet up the pressure on Congress to fully and permanently fund the LWCF and to include it as a priority in the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative.
The LWCF was created in 1965 to direct a portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas production towards protecting public lands and creating safe spaces for recreation. Without using a single taxpayer dollar, LWCF invests in communities across the country, from expanding access for hunting and fishing in Montana’s Crown of the Continent, to helping state and local governments build bike paths, ball fields, and recreational amenities.
The First Lady, with her “Let’s Move” Initiative, has been at the leading edge of the push to encourage active, healthy lifestyles from a young age, and to combat the epidemics of obesity and heart disease that are affecting families across the country. By putting the weight of the “Let’s Move” Initiative behind LWCF, the First Lady and Secretary Jewell can not only encourage kids to get outdoors, but also ensure that there are more safe places for them to explore, discover, and play. As the letter states, the LWCF is “a valuable resource for communities to use in the fight against childhood obesity.”
The fight to fully fund the LWCF will not be easy. It’s supposed to receive $900 million per year from oil and natural gas revenues, but year after year Congress diverts most of this money to unrelated spending. Fortunately, the president is working to reverse this trend — his 2014 budget proposed that $600 million from oil and gas revenues be invested in LWCF, and for it to be fully funded by 2015.
In a political climate where partisan stalemate is all too common, it’s encouraging to see bipartisan support for a fully funded LWCF. One hundred and fifty-seven members of the House of Representatives and 48 Senators, both Republicans and Democrats, signed letters urging the Appropriations Committees to dedicate funding for LWCF in the 2014 budget. Congressman Gosar (R-AZ), Congressman Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and former Congressman LaTourette (R-OH) recently penned moving op-eds in support of LWCF for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation. And Secretary Jewell has been vocal, strong, and clear in her determination to secure full funding the LWCF in testimony to Congress earlier this month. With such broad, bipartisan support in both Congress and the Administration, we seem to be closer than ever to fulfilling a promise 40 years in the making.
Judy Li is an intern with the Energy and Environment Team at the Center for American Progress.