Congress Must Reauthorize and Fully Fund LWCF so it Can Continue Providing Benefits to Our Nation, Including Every New Mexico County

Oct 1, 2018

NEW MEXICO (STATEWIDE) – As the September 30 expiration date came and went yesterday for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), groups from across New Mexico representing youth, veterans, businesses, sportsmen, and other conservationists, expressed disappointment and frustration that Congress did not act to prevent this crucial conservation fund from expiring. For months, New Mexicans have joined Americans across the country in calling for permanent reauthorization and full funding for LWCF and they continue to amplify that call today.

Founded in 1965, LWCF has been one of our nation’s most successful conservation tools, providing funding to open up public lands access, help maintain city parks, and acquire lands for our national parks, monuments, forests, wildlife refuges, and other conservation lands.

Over the years, New Mexico has received more than $312 million of LWCF dollars that have gone into more than 1,200 projects benefiting outdoor places including the Gila National Forest, Valles Caldera National Preserve, and El Malpais National Monument. LWCF has provided funds for many of our state parks, too, including Eagle Nest Lake, Mesilla Valley Bosque, City of Rocks, Navajo Lake, Clayton Lake, and Living Desert Zoo & Gardens. The vast majority of LWCF projects have occurred in local parks including Big Ditch Park in Silver City, Gallinas River Park in Las Vegas, and Young Park in Las Cruces.

By letting LWCF expire, Congress is jeopardizing the future of the public’s ability to enjoy and access our open spaces and important historic and cultural sites. An expired LWCF also means governments and nonprofit organizations cannot rely on LWCF as a source of matching funds for their investments in conservation and recreation projects. It also leaves those who enjoy the outdoors with their families and friends to wonder why LWCF’s reauthorization was not a top priority.

“By ignoring the LWCF deadline many in Congress are saying that green spaces for urban communities and public land access for all doesn’t matter,” said New Mexico Wildlife Federation Acting Executive Director Todd Leahy. “This has traditionally been a bipartisan issue. It is deeply upsetting that the current political climate prevents something that benefits all Americans from being done. Future generations will look back on this inaction with confusion and disappointment.”

“To grow up healthy, kids need a clean, beautiful, and accessible outdoors where they can spend time with family, play, and discover the amazing world around them,” said James Jimenez, Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children. “Without the Land and Water Conservation Fund, New Mexico will be severely hindered in our efforts to provide and protect such vital outdoor places for our families, including historically and socially significant outdoor areas.”

“LWCF is absolutely critical in supporting New Mexico’s fast-growing outdoor recreation sector, which supports over 99,000 jobs in our state,” said Alexandra Merlino, Executive Director of New Mexico’s Partnership for Responsible Business. “If we lose LWCF, we undermine the foundation for growing our state’s outdoor recreation economy.”

The cities of Las Cruces, Albuquerque, and Santa Fe, the town of Mesilla, and Bernalillo County all unanimously passed resolutions in recent months urging Congress to reauthorize and fully fund LWCF.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is vital to our economy and quality of life in Bernalillo County and across New Mexico,” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins. “All New Mexicans should be very concerned that LWCF has expired. Congress must not let us down. Congress must act to re-authorize and full fund LWCF immediately.”

The Trump administration proposed cutting LWCF funds drastically in its Fiscal Year 2019 budgets, further compounding the threats to LWCF’s contributions to our nation’s public lands and communities.

“Preservation of our public lands and our historic battlefields, which are so important to our heritage, requires leadership. So far, we have seen none from the Trump administration,” said Garett Reppenhagen, Rocky Mountain Director for Vet Voice Foundation and former US Army sniper. “LWCF expired on September 30th on Interior Secretary Zinke’s watch. He failed to make this bipartisan program a priority, and now our parks, history, and legacy are under threat. This administration simply does not care about preserving our military heritage or protecting these sites for future generations.”  

Despite Congress’s inaction, LWCF advocates appreciate that U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham have consistently supported and advocated for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to be fully funded and permanently reauthorized.

Representative Steve Pearce’s voting recording in Congress stands in stark contrast to the rest of New Mexico’s Congressional delegation. Rep. Pearce voted against fully funding LWCF in 2016 and this past summer voted twice to cut funds from the program.