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Renew the Land and Water Conservation Fund

September 19, 2018

Time is running out for the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will expire on Sept. 30 if Congress does not act. It’s a symbol of how dysfunctional the governance of the United States has become that this bipartisan program is at risk.

Fortunately, last week saw some progress at reauthorizing the fund. The U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources approved a compromise bill Thursday to renew the fund. Still, it fell short of fully funding it — which we support. Here’s why this fund matters:

Full funding would pour some $900 million a year into conservation fund. Those dollars would be used across the nation, including in New Mexico, to increase outdoor opportunities for Americans. Money would go to help pay for land acquisition by the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service. Other funds pay for grants to states to assist in recreational planning, buying property or developing outdoor recreational facilities.

New Mexico is but one beneficiary of this smart government program, with some $312 million for projects all over the state — more than 1,200 since the fund was authorized by Congress in 1964 — including city parks in Santa Fe, Hyde Memorial State Park, county parks and recreational areas at nearby pueblos, to name a few.

Other sites that benefited include Chaco Culture National Historic Park, Río Grande del Norte National Monument and the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument.

Funded through oil and gas royalties from offshore drilling in public waters, the Land and Water Conservation Fund makes a difference across the country. According to the U.S. Department of Interior, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided some $4 billion to states for outdoor recreation and public access, helping fund 40,000 projects and providing protection for 2.3 million acres of federal forest lands.

Conservation groups, environmentalists and sportsmen want Congress to keep the fund alive.

All members of the New Mexico congressional delegation support the Land and Water Conservation Fund in one form or another.

However, GOP candidate for governor and U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce has said he does not want a permanent reauthorization of the fund because he believes it will need changes in the future. He also voted in 2016 against its full funding. We think voters should ask him about these positions as he campaigns for governor. After all, New Mexico prospers when our outdoor lands are cared for and healthy. This fund helps make that possible.

Before Sept. 30 arrives, Congress needs to put bickering aside. Renew and fully fund a program that works so well.

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