Article in Maine Insights on March 12, 2019
By Ramona du Houx
In an historic victory for public lands and outdoor recreation, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was permanently reauthorized on March 12, 2019, as part of a sweeping public lands package signed into law by President Donald Trump.
The legislation, as part of the U.S. S.47 - John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House (363-62) and the Senate (92-8) in February, making it veto proof.
This is the culmination of a years-long effort by Congressional champions on both sides of the aisle and by stakeholders across the country to preserve the unique character of this program, funded by revenues from offshore oil and gas royalty payments.
An unique group of 80 veterans who are elected officials, The Elected Officials to Protect America’s Lands (EOPA), signed and sent a letter to the Interior Secretary in support of reauthorizing the LWCF last August. A week after some of them met with eight senators on Capitol Hill the LWCF funding bill, that had been languishing in committee, was approved. Continued pressure from EOPA didn’t stop until it passed the US House and Senate. Now it’s the law of the land.
“This is a milestone for America’s public lands and every American. In the military we fight side-by-side with our brothers, never politicly branding one another. Our lives depend on us working together. The lives of our people depend on Congress doing the same,” said Former Maine State Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx, who served in the Marines in Iraq and is now a Lieutenant in the Navy Reserves, and EOPA co-founder. “While we applaud the champions in the House and Senate for their bipartisan cooperation there’s more to do. We look forward to working on both sides of the aisle to secure full, dedicated LWCF funding.”
While the new law permanently renews LWCF it does not fully fund it at the $900 million a year authorized in the original LWCF bill. Instead, it leaves funding to the annual appropriations process.
EOPA is the only group of serving elected officials who are also veterans, dedicated to preserving and protecting America’s public lands for all.
“By doing so we are continuing the Constitutional vows, we take as veterans and elected officials, to preserve and protect our nation. We will continue to fight for the protection of our outdoor heritage,” added Cornell du Houx.
LWCF is America’s most important conservation program, responsible for protecting parks, wildlife refuges and recreation areas at the federal, state and local level. For 50 years, it has provided critical funding for land and water conservation projects, recreational construction and activities and the continued historic preservation of our nation’s iconic landmarks from coast-to- coast.
Outdoor recreation, conservation and historic preservation activities contribute more than $887 billion annually to the U.S. economy, supporting 7.6 million jobs.
Members of the Elected Officials to Protect America's Lands met with Sen. Rob Wyden, and other U.S. Senators, on Sept 6th on Capitol Hill to urge the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Sen Wyden, and all the Congressional members they met met with are supportive of the LWCF becoming fully funded. From left to right in the back: State Sen. Rick Kolowski (NE), Asm. Felix Ortiz (NY) US Senator Rob Wyden, State Rep. Paul Evans, Former State Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx, (ME) Delegate Pat Young (MD). In the front: State Rep. Debbie Sarinana,(NM) and Rep. Michael Sheehy (OH).