Editor’s note: Andy Walgamott is the executive editor for Alaska Sporting Journal and the editor of our sister magazine, Northwest Sportsman.
By Andy Walgamott
Despite a wave of support from Northwest hunters, anglers and politicians on both sides of the aisle, the important Land and Water Conservation Fund may not be reauthorized by the deadline to do so, today, Sept. 30.
Supporters are deeply worried that the fund, created in 1965, will for the first time ever not be allocated new revenues.
A hugely important funding mechanism — Washington alone has benefited to the tune of $600 million — for setting aside lands to hunt on, access fisheries and provide other outdoor recreation, LWCF has been put on hold by a Utah representative who chairs the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Revenues for the fund come from royalties on offshore gas and oil leases and are then disbursed through federal agencies and to the states. Rep. Bob Bishop’s stated beef is that 60 percent of the LWCF is earmarked for stateside programs, but in 2014, only 16 percent was actually sent to them.
He claims he wants to modernize the fund to “(protect) state and local recreational access.”
I don’t really buy that. I think it’s cover for the greater Sagebrush Rebellion II going on in the West, one that is not in the best interests of hunters, anglers or other outdoor users of any political stripe.
LWCF needs to be put above politics. Washington Reps. Dave Reichert (R) and Derek Kilmer (D) have recognized the value of the program. They’ve called on Congress to reauthorize the fund.
(It should be noted that in July, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) teamed up to unveil a bipartisan energy bill to endorse and renew the LWCF before it expires).
In an urgent email earlier this week, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association director Liz Hamilton pointed out, “LWCF is responsible for hundreds of miles of river access, thousands of acres of land for hunters to enjoy, and numerous national parks.”
“NSIA commissioned study in 2013 which found that more than 7,200 jobs are created due to fishing on public lands in Oregon and more than 10,000 jobs in Washington. Not surprisingly, 65% of fishing related spending takes place due to public access. Our access to public lands means that guides, tackle makers, rod builders, etc. have a strong and faithful customer base,” she added, urging readers to email their U.S. Senators.
Though LWCF can disburse up to $900 million, last year it was funded to the tune of $306 million.
But it wasn’t included in Congress’s continuing resolution to keep the government operating for a couple months, so no money may be available for 2016.
This is just dumb.
But maybe not the end of the world. The call for permanent reauthorization is going on as I write this.
Montana Sen. Steve Daines (R) just tweeted out, “HAPPENING NOW: I’m leading a group of Senators in calling for permanent reauthorization of
#LWCF. Watch live:http://floor.senate.gov/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&event_id=531 … #mtpol”
LWCF needs to be above rightwing and leftwing politics. It’s for the good of all. Permanently reauthorize it so we don’t have to go through this BS during hunting season, some of the best fishing of the year, and most scenic hiking weather.