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Sen. Munoz: Reauthorizing Land and Water Conservation Fund is a win-win situation

From the State Journal Register in Chicago

December 11, 2018

Op-ed By State Sen. Antonio Munoz

As a lifelong city-dweller, I never gave much thought to public lands. I thought those were concerns of populations living in sparsely populated rural areas, near remote wildlife refuges or grandiose national parks. I had never heard of the Land and Water Conservation Fund growing up; but, like many Chicago natives, I unknowingly enjoyed the fruits of its labor. It wasn’t until I started representing the people of 1st District in the Illinois Senate that I realized the work LWCF has been doing, mostly behind the scenes, for decades.

LWCF, founded in 1964, is a bipartisan commitment to protecting public spaces. It is funded by royalties paid by private oil companies drilling offshore. It costs the taxpayers nothing but protects and provides public spaces for communities across the nation. LWCF has granted approximately $213 million to Illinois. The work of the fund is so vast that I am never far from a LWCF project, whether home in my district or working in Springfield.

I have spent almost two decades in politics, and rarely have I seen such a win-win situation. So I was shocked that Congress let LWCF expire at the end of September. Unless Congress acts immediately, those spaces and any future projects will remain at risk.

Before I was an elected official, I was an officer with the Chicago Police Department. And before my time in blue, I served in green with the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. As a police officer I saw firsthand the impact of LWCF funded projects — from public pools to neighborhood playgrounds and my favorite ballparks. As a Southsider and lifelong White Sox fan, some of my fondest memories include running around the bases of our local ball field, dreaming of being the next Goose Gossage. While on patrol decades later, I would often drive by the next group of young baseball fans in impromptu games, trying to squeeze one more inning out of the long summer evenings. Those projects, and our collective love of baseball, connected us through the years.

I now understand how integral LWCF was in developing and protecting public areas for my generation, and it is only right that our children continue to have access to those spaces. As a federally funded program, LWCF funds projects in every state, with playgrounds, monuments and other public land in almost every major city.

Part of our American heritage is enjoying the outdoors. The public has a right to enjoy nature, and as elected officials, we have a responsibility to protect public lands. As a veteran and veterans’ advocate, I’ve worked tirelessly to provide care for military members fighting to overcome PTSD and to improve their overall mental wellness. I have witnessed the effects long weekend retreats and extended camping trips have on our returning veterans. Public lands are an effective part of hundreds of treatment plans, helping veterans reconnect to their families and their communities. Public lands and LWCF sponsored projects provide the space and the peace for veterans to process their time in service and transition to whatever comes next.

My political predecessors had the forethought and commitment to create and fund LWCF, and it is time for my generation of politicians to continue their legacy to protect ball fields and public parks across the country. That’s why I joined 70 other elected officials and service members in signing a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke urging him to fully support LWCF.

I stand with representatives from both parties in calling on Congress to take action to fully fund and permanently reauthorize LWCF. We need Senator Durbin and Senator Duckworth to continue to fight for LWCF on behalf of all people who rely on our public lands for recreation and economic opportunities.

The 82 Airborne motto is “All the Way,” and that’s the level of commitment we need from Congress in protecting LWCF, right now and for generations to come.

Tony Munoz, D-Chicago, represents the 1st District in the Illinois Senate.

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Take action now to aid our ecosystem and climate

For The Washington Herald- Commentary: Take action now to aid our ecosystem and climate

One path toward helping salmon and orca is reauthorization of a public lands funding program.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

By John McCoy

The Southern Resident orcas could go extinct. Their populations have dwindled from around 200 to merely 74. A calf recently was born, but no calf has survived in the last three years.

More than a century of development and pollution, along with climate change are to blame. We’ve caused these problems, we’ve a duty to save them, thereby saving the environment we all share. We’re all connected and must work together for a sustainable future.

Orca and salmon are intrinsic to our cultural heritage, tribes, tourism and health. Orca are the proverbial cannery in a coal mine. Lack of food, mainly salmon, causes the whales to burn their fat reserves which then releases chemical toxins stored in their fat. Those same toxins are in the food chain, which we consume, too. When we save the orcas from toxins, we save ourselves.

I’m proud of our governor’s initiatives and that the Legislature approved $1.1 billion to help, which will have ongoing benefits for the region’s entire ecosystem. These efforts will also fight climate change, and improve water quality. When we recover our orca and salmon populations everyone’s quality of life will improve.

We must do everything to protect our natural wonders for future generations; that takes a bipartisan effort. Knowing that we are all in this together makes it easier to find common ground. In my culture, leaders are often seen as peacemakers, not dividers. I’m a Democrat who worked in Ronald Reagan’s White House. Working together is how our democracy works best.

That’s why I stand with the elected officials to protect America’s lands. We are the only group of serving elected officials who are 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.

Last summer, 80 of us, signed and sent a letter to the Interior Secretary in support of reauthorizing the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. A week after, we held meetings with U.S. senators on Capitol Hill, regarding the LWCF funding bill, which had been languishing in committee. Approved in a Senate committee, the bill now is stalled.

A federal and a United Nation’s report stated that if we don’t mitigate climate change there will be more catastrophic weather events. Bold action is needed now.

Reauthorizing LWCF, is a key measure that can lead the lead the way.

Since its establishment by Congress in 1964, the LWCF has been a bipartisan commitment that safeguards our natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage. For many, trips to Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades National Parks are annual pilgrimages connecting families with our country’s roots while creating lasting memories, all assisted by LWCF funding. Over $12 million has been allocated to Washington parks and public lands from the LWCF just since 2000.

Veterans don’t distinguish each other by which political party we are affiliated with; we stand by and with our Constitution. It is my duty to stand up to protect our lands for future generations.

Please join me in fighting for the permeant and dedicated reauthorization for the LWCF, so everyone can breathe easier and species like our orca, as well as our public lands, will be there for future generations.

Saving our land is the first line of defense fighting climate change.

State Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, represents the 38th Legislative District.

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New Mexico: Our public lands getting hit hard

 

BY MARK ALLISON / NEW MEXICO WILD EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Published in the Albuquerque Journal: Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

I write, we are now in the longest government shutdown in American history.

A recent study by WalletHub determined that New Mexico has been hit harder by the federal government shutdown than any other state. The shutdown is particularly problematic for the state’s outdoor recreation economy, which generates $9.9 billion in consumer spending annually and directly employs 99,000 New Mexicans.

New Mexico’s public lands are threatened by this shutdown, as is the public’s safety. The reduced or absent oversight and law enforcement increases the likelihood of incidences of vandalism, destruction of historic and cultural resources, and harm to fragile ecosystems. New Mexicans are rightly concerned and saddened by this. They are also upset that their access to public lands is being limited. This predictable reaction underscores how much we as New Mexicans value our natural heritage and our public lands.

Some public lands in New Mexico remain open during the shutdown, yet those that are managed by federal agencies, such as the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), are severely understaffed due to employee furloughs, meaning the agencies cannot provide the usual level of service and oversight.

New Mexico Wild is calling on members of the public to help document the federal government shutdown’s impact on our public lands and wild places. Individuals are encouraged to post photos and updates on public lands they visit to social media using the hashtag #OpenNMLands. The posts should tag @nmwilderness on Facebook and Instagram, and @nmwild on Twitter. New Mexico Wild will use the images and testimonies submitted to update the public on the conditions of public lands throughout the shutdown. Those who do not use social media may email their photos and stories to news@nmwild.org.

Additionally, we have launched a government shutdown website the public can use as a resource to stay up to date on how the shutdown is affecting New Mexico’s public lands. The website will be updated as more information is gathered. The public can go to www.nmwild.org.

Federal employees are dedicated public servants, and they deserve our respect and support. They want to carry on the important work of protecting our public lands, but they are being told not to show up for work. To show our support, we are offering federal government employees who have been furloughed due to the shutdown a free, one-year membership to New Mexico Wild.

And while the public is being prevented from enjoying their public lands, we’ve learned that the BLM continues to process oil and gas leases on public lands during the shutdown, all while not responding to public records requests. New Mexico Wild believes that this action is illegal and is calling on the Department of Interior to postpone oil and gas lease sales and the issuance of drilling permits until the BLM can conduct legally compliant environmental reviews, and resume regular comment and protest periods.

Meanwhile, a public lands package with nearly unanimous support was reintroduced in the United States Senate on Jan. 8, including eight new wilderness areas totaling 241,067 acres within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Doña Ana County and two new wilderness areas totaling 21,540 acres within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in Taos County. The 116th Congress should quickly pass the bipartisan lands package and send it to the president.

Reopen the government. Get federal workers back to work. Pay them. Let the public enjoy their public lands. Cease processing of oil and gas leasing unless and until the government reopens. Pass the public lands package.

Stop the nonsense.

The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance or “New Mexico Wild” is a nonprofit 501(C)(3), independent, homegrown, grassroots, conservation organization dedicated to the protection, restoration and continued respect of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas.

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Bipartisan Elected Officials, Veterans and Conservation Champions Rally to Save LWCF before 2019

 

From Maine Insights News Magazine 

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) champions in the House and Senate rallied on the steps of the U.S. Capitol with conservation leaders on November 29,2018 calling on Congress to reauthorize and fully fund America’s most important conservation and recreation program before the end of the year.

"Two months ago, America lost one of its best conservation tools,” said Lynn Scarlett, Former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior and head of External Affairs at The Nature Conservancy. "It’s too important to continue leaving its future in doubt. Now more than ever, we have the bipartisan momentum to get LWCF the permanent reauthorization and full funding it deserves. For the protection of our lands, waters and the benefits their conservation bring to communities and our economy, now is the time to save LWCF.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund helps protect national parks, expand outdoor recreation opportunities and bolster local economies, all at no cost to the American taxpayer.

"Since it was enacted 54 years ago, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped protect many of the nation’s most popular national parks, forests, and public lands,” said Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). “LWCF has pumped billions of dollars into the outdoor economy and provided millions of good jobs."

 “The Land and Water Conservation Fund remains the single most successful conservation program in American history,” said Senator Richard Burr (R-NC). “Nearly every congressional district in the country benefits from its funding – at no cost to the taxpayer – and millions enjoy the parks, ballfields, and landscapes it maintains every day. My colleagues and I will continue to push for a permanent reauthorization of this important program.

A national poll released in September showed that 74 percent of Americans support reauthorization and funding of the LWCF. The historically bipartisan program has received widespread support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The Elected Officials to Protect America's Lands also weighed into the effort to get LWCF permanently funded by the end of the year.

“As veterans who are elected officials, the freedom to recreate in our public lands is something we continue to fight for—for all Americans. Failure to permanently reauthorize the bipartisan Land and Water Conservation Fund will be a self-inflicted wound that jeopardizes livelihoods connected to the multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry it generates, and more importantly, for our children who rely on these funds to protect the outdoor spaces we all love,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, President of the Elected Officials to Protect America’s Lands,  Marine veteran and former state representative. 

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Zinke's Resignation: Veterans who are elected officials concerned Bernhardt is even more corrupt

From Maine Insights NEWS

Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has resigned which means Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt will take over as Acting Secretary of the Interior, a position in which he will be legally allowed to serve for 210 days without action by the President.

“While the resignation of Interior Secretary Zinke is important, as he has damaged our public lands and there are 18 investigations currently underway about his unethical actions, the likelihood of Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt filling his shoes, is very concerning,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, President of the Elected Officials to Protect America’s Lands, Marine veteran and former state representative. “As veterans who are lawmakers, one of the freedoms we fight for is to protect access to public lands for all. Whoever replaces Sec. Zinke should uphold the mission and traditions of the Department of the Interior to protect our public Lands for future generations.”

But Bernhardt is too conflicted to even be Acting Interior Secretary.

 Bernhardt is an ex-lobbyist for extractive resource industries and other special interests with deep ties to corporate polluters. He’s already had to recuse himself 26 times regarding deals involving old clients in order to adhere to the Trump administration’s ethics requirements.

But he regularly breaks that promise, as he’s become the man who is executing Trump’s vision to fuel the nation’s dirty energy production. 

In a year and a half, he has made it easier for federal authorities to approve drilling projects on land and offshore, has helped narrow habitat protections for endangered species, and is pushing California to divert more of its water from conservation to agricultural interests.

Zinke tasked him with drafting a new plan for managing federal and state water supplies in California. Bernhardt has made it clear he hopes to overhaul existing agreements to provide more water to agricultural interests.

Bernhardt also has a longstanding relationship and a financial interest with Cadiz, Inc. – the company with plans to pump groundwater from beneath the Mojave Desert public lands. While Bernhardt was serving on Trump’s Interior Department transition team, the proposed Cadiz groundwater project made Trump’s “priority infrastructure project” list. 

Already, 17 million acres of federal lands have been opened for oil and gas leases. When developed those new wells will boost greenhouse gas emissions, while lining the pockets of company executives, some his former clients.

Queried on his views on climate change Bernhardt said he had virtually no legal obligation to act.

“Protecting America’s lands is our first line of defense against climate change,” said Cornell du Houx. “Bernhardt’s past actions dictate he should not get the job, because his recusals have become laughable empty promises. No one is above the law.”

MORE ABOUT ELECTED OFFICIALS TO PROTECT AMERICA'S LANDS

Last summer, 80 of EOPA members, who are veterans as well as lawmakers, signed and sent a letter to Interior Secretary Zinke in support of the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  They visited Congressional offices, calling on seven senators. A week after their meetings on Capitol Hill the bill that had been languishing in committee was approved permanently funding the LWCF. But now it’s stalled, and hasn’t been brought to the floor for a vote.

 

 

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Interior Sec. Zinke Resigns - Successor worries EOPA veterans who are lawmakers

Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has resigned which means Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt will take over as Acting Secretary of the Interior, a position in which he will be legally allowed to serve for 210 days without action by the President.

“While the resignation of Interior Secretary Zinke is important, as he has damaged our public lands and there are 18 investigations currently underway about his unethical actions, the likelihood of Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt filling his shoes, is very concerning,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, President of the Elected Officials to Protect America’s Lands, Marine veteran and former state representative. “As veterans who are lawmakers, one of the freedoms we fight for is to protect access to public lands for all. Whoever replaces Sec. Zinke should uphold the mission and traditions of the Department of the Interior to protect our public Lands for future generations.”

Public Lands Zinke opened up to oil and gas interests

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Happy Thanksgiving

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Maine lawmaker stands with veterans to protect America's Lands

Op-ed: State Rep. Robert Alley stands with veterans who are lawmakers to protect Maine, and America's public lands - from Maine Insights

As Veterans, who are Lawmakers we Stand United to protect America's Lands

Op-ed by Rep. Robert Alley, a Democrat, who represents House District 138. He serves on the Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Marine Resources Committees.

From lobster fishing to hunting game in our wilderness, we know our way of life depends upon the health of our ecosystems. I’m proud to serve on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Marine Resources Committees, where I fight to ensure we sustain our natural assets, as I did with recent law giving elver fishermen more flexibility while sustaining the resource. Certain fishery laws need updating and I’m working in Augusta on those issues.

As a former lobsterman I know how valuable the health of our coast is to the livelihoods of thousands of Mainers. The only way to achieve results is to work with others and that’s why I reach across the aisle to get things done for the good of all our citizens.

Protecting our coast is protecting our cultural heritage, and a way of life we can’t afford to lose. With temperatures on the rise our fishing industries are at risk. Scientists have found that our lobsters are slowly moving north because of the increase in the ocean’s temperature. Ocean acidification damages lobsters and hard shell delicacies, degrading their shells. But instead of protecting our natural resources, Secretary Zinke wants to drill of oil off our coast. 

If we don’t stand behind our natural resources, we risk losing them forever. That’s why I recently signed a letter with 79 other lawmakers who are veterans, in support of the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Since its establishment by Congress in 1964, the LWCF has been a bipartisan commitment that safeguards our natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage.

In order for us to protect our natural resources we all must work together. Veterans don’t distinguish each other by what political party we are affiliated with, we all stand by and with our Constitution. That’s why I’m proud to stand with my brothers and sisters, who are lawmakers, in support of the LWCF.

All American’s need clean air and water.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided both recreational opportunities to all Americans and has been a source of revenue for states and local governments. Many local projects have received LWCF funding.

Over the past 40-plus years, the LWCF program has provided more than $3.9 billion in grants funding projects in just about every county in the country.

In Washington County over $175,000 was granted  for the St. Croix Acquisition. Baileyville Municipal Park, the Quoddy Head Expansion, and the Gleason Point Boat Access all happened with LWCF grants. The list goes on and on. Over $27 million has been invested in Maine in all counties and the unorganized territories since 1968. Over $8.5 million has been granted to the state since 2002 alone. You’ve probably been to a park, nature reserve, beauty spot or veterans’ memorial that has been funded with LWCF grants. We enjoy kayaking, canoeing, swimming, picnicking, and just being able to relax in our parks, supported by LWCF funds.

A Bureau of Economic Analysis study found that the outdoor recreation contributes $887 billion and supports 7.6 million jobs across America. Every $1 of LWCF funds invested results in a return of $4 in economic value.

On the national stage generations of Americans have visited National parks. For many, these trips are annual pilgrimages connecting families with our country’s roots while creating lasting memories. Our land is intrinsic to who we are as a people.

Our 47,000-acre Acadia National Park with unsurpassed woodlands, rocky beaches and glacier-scoured granite peaks needs constant upkeep. LWCF supports all our National Parks and Monuments.

The LWCF is one of our most successful conservation programs because it draws on funds from offshore oil and gas royalties, not taxpayers, to expand, develop, and improve public lands for recreational areas, conservation, and the preservation of natural ecosystems. 

But now the LCWF is in jeopardy of not being reauthorized.

The bill supporting the LWCF was stalled in committee for over a year, being used as a political football. In September, a week after fellow EOPA veterans who are serving lawmakers visited Washington D.C. - where they called on seven U.S. Senators to educate them about the effort - the bill finally made it out of that committee. However, it still needs to be voted on. That's why we are urging Speaker Ryan to bring it to the floor for a vote.

LWCF needs reauthorization by Congress - now.

Our national parks, national forests, monuments, wildlife refuges and state projects are in jeopardy of being lost. We believe a strong showing of bipartisan support from state lawmakers, who are also veterans, can help Interior Secretary Zinke to support for reauthorization of the LWCF and thereby that of Congress.

My military brothers and sisters have banded together as lawmakers to stand with our country defending our public lands. I see my son fishing off our coast, making a modest honest living, following in a family tradition. His future, and that of all Mainers are at risk if we don't protect our natural world. Lend your voice to a cause for all our futures.

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Efforts to Reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund Continue

During the last week of Federal Fiscal Year 2018, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to fund the work of the government agencies through December 7th. 

The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a markup for Tuesday, October 2nd — the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System and the Wild and Scenic Rivers System — on bills to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and provide funding for the Parks maintenance backlog. S. 569, sponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) with 47 co-sponsors, permanently reauthorizes LWCF at $900 million and requires that that full amount be appropriated each year to acquire critical lands for conservation and recreation. S. 3172, sponsored by Senate Rob Portman (R-OH) with 30 co-sponsors, establishes the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund and provides $1.3 billion annually to address the infrastructure maintenance needs in the National Park System.

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