In a historic day for land conservation, The Great American Outdoors Act passed the Senate on June 17 by a wide bipartisan margin of 73-25. In addition to providing funding for maintenance of national parks among other items, the Act would permanently provide $900 million in dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
The Land and Water Conservation Fund was a promise made to the American people over 50 years ago to take the proceeds from offshore oil and gas drilling and invest a portion of those dollars back into the lands and waters that sustain us. While Congress let LWCF expire briefly in 2015, the Massachusetts congressional delegation led the fight to bring it back— authorizing $450 million for the next three years. But that was only temporary. The current legislation makes funding permanent and prevents the money from being raided to spend elsewhere.
The LWCF benefits the Pioneer Valley directly. Some land is so critical to the health of our nation that it is eligible for public investment through the fund. Over the last decade, Kestrel has used this federal funding to:
- Conserve 3,486 acres of working forest on Brushy Mountain, with another 2,000 acres in the works through the U.S Forest Service’s Forest Legacy program.
- Expand protected lands within the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Fort River Division with multiple land purchases, protecting grassland and river habitats, as well as creating fully accessible trails.
If the Great American Outdoors Act is passed by the House and signed by the President, the LWCF will finally be fully, permanently funded. With this funding—and with your support—we will have a critical resource needed to conserve our forests for clean drinking water, fighting climate change, and providing public access for all people.
Kestrel is part of the LWCF Coalition and has been playing a role by advocating for the LWCF with our Congressional delegation. We are grateful to our Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren for supporting this important legislation.