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May 14, 2019

There’s been some movement on appropriations for fiscal year 2020 (FY20) in recent days. Last week, Secretary Bernhardt testified before the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. But, as E&E News reported, his testimony “failed to satisfy Democrats’ concerns over his ethics, an expensive proposed reorganization and his department’s approach toward climate change.”

Bernhardt admitted that, “climate is changing. I recognize that man is a contributing factor,” though he does not appear to be enthusiastically pursuing avenues to address this looming issue. And while he outlined a broad plan for the proposed reorganization of the Interior Department, he didn’t offer much in the way of specifics. The committee will continue to pursue details on Bernhardt and his dealings with climate change, ethics, the reorganization, and offshore drilling.

However, another incredibly important topic needs to be addressed for FY20; full funding for the recently (and permanently) reauthorized Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Back in March, President Trump signed into law a public lands package that, among other great steps forward, permanently reauthorized LWCF. This critical fund was created by Congress in 1964 as a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources, and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreational opportunities to all Americans. It is our nation’s primary source for preserving nationally significant public lands, and for providing recreational opportunities in local communities throughout our nation. You can read more about it here.

Every single state in America has benefited from LWCF. It not only helps to preserve our irreplaceable natural and cultural resources and supports our access to the outdoors, it also serves as an investment in our economy; outdoor recreation, conservation, and historic preservation activities contribute more than a trillion dollars annually to the U.S. economy. So we celebrate the permanent reauthorization of LWCF and congratulated our Congressional representatives. But the celebration didn’t last long.

The Trump Administration’s FY 2020 budget proposed a 14.9% cut to the National Park Service (NPS) budget, when compared to the budget passed by Congress for FY 2019. It not only undermines the ability of the NPS to ensure that our precious natural and cultural resources are protected and preserved, it also virtually eliminates LWCF. According to this article, “the plan would slash the federal portion of LWCF from $156 million down to just $7.6 million.”

The permanent reauthorization of LWCF is an empty victory without appropriate levels of funding. If Congress truly values its natural resources, hallowed battlefields, historic homes, community ballparks, hiking trails, and pristine forests, then it must fully fund LWCF.

Tomorrow, the House Appropriations subcommittees will mark up the Energy and Water and Interior and Environment funding bills for FY20. We are joining our partners and raising our voice to remind our Representatives that the future of LWCF is still at stake. Their constituents back home, in local communities across the country, rely on this funding source. LWCF must be on the table and it must be fully funded.