Buchanan continues battle to make federal conservation fund permanent

With Congress back in session for the final weeks of the 115th legislative session, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) on Nov. 27 renewed his plea to permanently reauthorize the now-expired Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

“It’s regrettable that despite broad bipartisan support Congress allowed this vital fund to expire,” Rep. Buchanan said on Tuesday, referring to the fund’s Sept. 30 expiration date.

The federal LWCF program provides states, counties and local governments with funds to protect and preserve national parks, wildlife habitats, water resources, and historic sites, said the congressman, pointing out its importance for his home state of Florida, where more than $1 billion in LWCF program funds have been invested to protect areas such as the Everglades, Biscayne National Park, Osceola National Forest, and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.

In addition, LWCF program funds also are utilized to protect shorelines, such as along Caspersen Beach in Sarasota County, while the Florida National Scenic Trail, one of 11 National Scenic Trails in America, also relies on new LWCF funding for such projects, according to Rep. Buchanan’s office.

“This important conservation program will help preserve Florida’s iconic environmental resources for future generations,” the lawmaker said.

H.R. 502, which has 241 cosponsors, was introduced almost two years ago in January 2017 by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). Since then, the measure was passed out of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee on Sept. 13.

As the current session of Congress winds down, Rep. Buchanan said that Florida’s nearly $60 billion outdoor recreation industry is dependent on LWCF program funding, which has supported almost 500,000 jobs in the state and generated roughly $3.5 billion in state and local tax revenues.

“Florida’s outdoor experience is the very cornerstone of the economy and quality of life for 20 million residents,” wrote Rep. Buchanan in a Sept. 26 letter to House leaders requesting they “immediately” take up and pass the legislation to make the LWCF permanently authorized before it expired. Among the 11 Florida representatives joining Buchanan in signing the bipartisan letter were U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

“From backyards to backcountry, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, over the last 50 years, has invested $1.036 billion across Florida to conserve fish and wildlife habitat, and enhance public hunting and fishing access,” the Florida lawmakers wrote. “We ask for your help to protect critical outdoor recreational infrastructure and fulfill the promise that all generations of Americans will be able to enjoy our public lands by immediately taking up and passing [this] legislation.”