Commentary: Over 40 elected officials from across New Mexico sent a letter today to the state’s Congressional Delegation urging reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). LWCF has enjoyed bi-partisan support in the U.S. Senate and House for more than fifty years but is set to expire September 30.
In their letter, elected officials stated that LWCF is “America’s most important conservation program, responsible for protecting parks, wildlife refuges and recreation areas at the federal, state and local level, ensuring that all Americans have access to and can enjoy our lands and parks across our nation.”
LWCF is funded through royalties paid by oil and gas companies that engage in offshore drilling; the fund receives no taxpayer dollars.
In New Mexico, LWCF has provided over $312 million to protect and enhance lands enjoyed by millions of New Mexican residents and visitors each year, driving the outdoor recreation economy, beautifying parks and playgrounds, and honoring the state’s outdoor heritage.
Thanks to LWCF, land purchased from willing sellers has been added to Petroglyph, El Malpais, Rio Grande del Norte, and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monuments; the Gila, Cibola, Santa Fe, and Carson National Forests; Pecos and Chaco Culture National Historical Parks; and numerous landscapes in between. LWCF state assistance grants have supported over 1,000 projects across New Mexico’s state and local parks. LWCF also funds the Forest Legacy Program, which has helped to protect private working ranch and forest lands.
Nationally, LWCF has supported more than 41,000 parks, ballfields, and other recreation projects. Places that have benefitted from LWCF are a key part of the outdoor recreation economy, which supports 7.6 million jobs across our country.
“Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Lujan Grisham and Luján have been outstanding champions of LWCF and New Mexico's communities have gained enormous benefits from their leadership. Just about every major open space or land protection project in our state has been helped by LWCF funding - guaranteeing that future generations of New Mexicans will have access to some of the most beautiful, extraordinary places in the world,” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins. “Communities across New Mexico cherish their public lands but local governments rarely have the resources needed to protect what they value most. LWCF has provided critical support for local efforts so we all need to speak up now to save it.”
“New Mexico is composed of remarkable outdoor spaces, from our national parks and monuments to local soccer fields, trails, and playgrounds. LWCF-funded projects have kept us connected to the lands that feed our souls, while also supporting local economies and tourism in our state,” said Nora Barraza, Mayor of Mesilla.
“Our President and our Interior Secretary have made it very clear that their priority is not aligned with protecting the best parts of our country. Instead, they want to cut LWCF by over 90 percent,” said Rock Ulibarri, Chairman of the San Miguel County Commission. “If we don’t speak up for LWCF now, our state could be in vastly worse shape for future generations.”
In the letter, signers asked the Members of New Mexico’s Congressional Delegation to work to permanently reauthorize Land and Water Conservation Fund and remind their Congressional colleagues to join them.
“New Mexico’s business community has long recognized that the Land and Water Conservation Fund contributes to our state’s economy and makes the Land of Enchantment an attractive place to live and visit. We appreciate New Mexico elected officials coming together to call for the Fund’s reauthorization before it expires this September,” said Alexandra Merlino, Executive Director of the Partnership for Responsible Business.
The Partnership for Responsible Business works to educate the public about local sustainable economies, to promote economic development through environmentally and socially responsible entrepreneurship, and to partner with allied organizations to advances socially responsible economic and community development policies and practices. To learn more, visitwww.PRBnewmexico.org.