The Trump Administration’s proposed 2019 budget aims to destroy the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) -- perhaps the most important piece of federal legislation that has been protecting our nation’s land and water for the last 50 years.
The budget proposes a 98% overall cut to the program. Individual federal agencies’ budgets for conservation at our National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges and other public lands would be eliminated outright or held so low as to barely pay staff, foreclosing any future protection of America’s lands and waters and undercutting efforts to enhance public access to the outdoors for hunting, fishing and a host of other activities that drive a vibrant economy.
Countless beloved American landscapes and historic treasures will be damaged by these devastating cuts. Sportsmen will find their access to traditional hunting and fishing grounds cut off, while the habitat that wild game as well as rare species rely on will be shrunk. Hiking, biking, climbing and paddling routes will become overcrowded or left vulnerable to development, hurting our $887 billion recreation economy and the 64 million American jobs on which it depends.
LWCF funding has conserved public lands that are critical to Latino communities, from the Santa Fe National Forest and Watershed (a National Park Service Latino Heritage Site, significant for its history as the home to Hispano settlers and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains); to the recently established Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, that provides critical outdoor and educational opportunities to Latino communities in Bernalillo and Valencia Counties in New Mexico. In California, Latino communities in Los Angeles and San Diego celebrate their history of Mexican and Spanish settlers of the state at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the Cabrillo Beach Development – also protected by the LWCF.
LWCF is a vital extension of our historic and cultural preservation systems – a part of our collective American heritage that’s one of the most important legacies to be handed down to our children and grandchildren. It’s not just land and it’s not just water, our public lands are the essence of our democracy – where all Americans have equal ownership and access regardless of cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds. Preserving these spaces is not only important to the Latino community, it represents a fundamental American value.
The Administration’s suggestions that these dollars would be better spent to address the maintenance backlog-- that has been created by years of underfunding the operating budget of our parks and public lands-- is not only a false choice, it is a reckless and senseless one that will leave our parks in peril.
Bipartisan support for LWCF in Congress has been strong and consistent for over half a century. The Administration’s budget proposal ignores the wishes of a majority in both the House and Senate, as well as ordinary citizens across the country.
We urge you to call your representatives and tell them to reject this ludicrous and offensive proposal that will hurt both urban and rural communities in every state, and stand up to defend our most important conservation and recreation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Let’s protect our natural resources and our country’s dynamic, multi-cultural past.