From Tim Gestwicki, CEO of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, and Ben Gregg, Executive Director of the South Carolina Wildlife Federation:
Recently the President submitted a budget proposal to Congress that contained full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), making an historic investment in America’s most important conservation program. His budget restores the long-standing promise that a small portion of the revenues derived from offshore oil and gas development are used to make strategic investments to protect America’s irreplaceable natural, historic and recreational outdoor places.
It is a significant victory for the conservation of America’s shared outdoor heritage, regardless of political allegiances, but now Congress must act.
This milestone for conservation from Washington hasn’t been easy or elegant, and there is much that still must be accomplished; but the administration is paving the way for a bright future for our nation’s parks, gamelands, forests, monuments, battlefields and so much more.
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For the last half century LWCF has created and helped protect some of the finest recreational, historic, and public places across the country, all without using a single taxpayer dollar. For example, in South Carolina, the ACE Basin, one of the premier conservation success stories in the nation and a premier birding/fishing/hunting/boating destination has benefited from over 15 million dollars over four decades from LWCF. It is hard to imagine how this project could have come about without LWCF funding.
In North Carolina, places like Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Uwharrie National Forest, and the Blue Ridge parkway have benefited greatly from LWCF funds. LWCF is critical to North Carolina’s economy as over 95,000 jobs are supported by outdoor recreation in the state and over $7.5 billion is pumped into the economy annually by hunters, angler and wildlife watchers.
Fortunately, N.C. and S.C. Congressional leaders have been among the strongest champions for LWCF too realizing that LWCF is a critical tool used by land owners, small businesses, ranchers, sportsmen, veterans, outdoor recreationists, historical preservationists and conservation organizations to protect America’s public lands and safeguard our shared outdoor heritage for our children and grandchildren.
Now is the time for Congress, as opportunities to protect these irreplaceable lands sometimes come along only once a generation.
As the stewards of this remarkable inheritance, we must be vigilant in its upkeep and support full funding for LWCF, to ensure that we leave these lands in better condition than when we found them.
Members of NCWF and SCWF are a strong mix of Republican, Democrat and Independent voters. We can state with full conviction that conservation supporters of every philosophical stripe believe that full funding of LWCF is vital to both our economy and our way of life.