Conservation Groups Applaud WV Senators’ Support for Public Lands Funding Bills

Land and Water Fund has brought over $200 million to West Virginia

A number of West Virginia conservation and recreation groups offered praise for Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Shelley Moore Capito for co-sponsoring bills to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF. For more than 50 years, LWCF has provided funding for state and local parks for facilities and infrastructure upgrades by using a portion of government royalties from off-shore oil and gas leases. It also provides funding for national forests, parks, and wildlife refuges to buy land within their authorized boundaries from willing sellers.

The funding is due to expire September 30, 2018 after a three-year authorization. Conservation and sporting groups have long sought a permanent solution for LWCF to help bring about a level of certainty for the agencies that have relied on the funding for long-term planning of public land and park improvements.

Although the senators are co-sponsoring different versions of LWCF bills, the groups, working in partnership as West Virginians for Public Lands, are cheered that both Manchin and Capito support permanent reauthorization.

The differences between the bills lie in the amount of dedicated annual funding for LWCF. Currently only a portion of the royalties eligible for the fund actually makes it through the Congressional appropriations process. Senate Bill 569, supported by Senator Manchin, would ensure permanent reauthorization and establishes protocol to fully fund LWCF each year. Senate Bill 896, supported by Senator Capito, only permanently reauthorizes the LWCF.

 “We’re thrilled to see this level of leadership coming from our U.S. Senators,” said Matt Kearns, who coordinates the West Virginians for Public Lands alliance for West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “We like that Senator Manchin’s support goes beyond reauthorization and specifies how much money would actually be appropriated so that the full allotment of LWCF funds for West Virginia will be there year after year. We want to see him have the support to get it done.”

Over the years, LWCF has provided funding for the Canaan Valley and Ohio Islands National Wildlife Refuges, access points on the Gauley and New Rivers, and iconic places in the Monongahela National Forest like the Cranberry Wilderness and Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. It also has brought millions of dollars to WV state parks and forests and city and county park systems.

“This funding is a critical component to West Virginia’s Wild and Wonderful image,” said Kearns. “It supports our tourism economy and provides real quality of life benefits for our residents. LWCF is the underpinning of our state’s current marketing emphasis that invites visitors to experience the natural beauty of West Virginia.”

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