In Floor Speech, Cantwell Urges Passage of Historic Legislation to Guarantee Conservation Fund

Legislation would make full $900 million annual funding of LWCF permanent, provide $9.5 billion for deferred maintenance at National Parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, & Tribal schools; LWCF has already invested over $700 million in more than 600 projects in Washington state; Cantwell has been leading Senate champion to protect & strengthen LWCF

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Senate prepares to vote this week on historic legislation to make full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanent and provide $9.5 billion for deterred maintenance projects on public lands and at Tribal schools, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor today to urge passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. The bill would permanently fund the LWCF at its full authorization level of $900 million annually, as well as help complete outstanding maintenance projects at National Parks, national forests, wildlife refuges, and Tribal schools around the country.

Cantwell has been a leading congressional champion of the LWCF. She led the fight to reauthorize the program after it expired in 2015 and authored bipartisan legislation, signed into law in 2019, that permanently reauthorized the program. Shortly after that bill was signed into law, Cantwell reintroduced her bipartisan legislation to make full LWCF funding mandatory.

“Now more than ever, we need to promote access to the shared public lands so that every American can get access,” Cantwell said. “They’re part of our history. They’re part of what we’ve invested in on behalf of the citizens of the United States of America to say that you have a place to recreate, to hunt, to fish, to find solace, to find recovery, to find enjoyment, to find amazement when you see the wonderful places, particularly in the state of Washington.”

“This bill will be injecting money into our economy, creating more jobs, and fixing the repairs that we need to our land and land infrastructure,” she continued.

Since its creation, LWCF has supported more than 42,000 state and local projects in communities across the country, including investing more than $700 million in more than 600 projects in Washington state. These projects include national parks, wilderness areas, hiking trails, areas for fishing and hunting, and parks and sports fields. Thousands of Washingtonians and millions of Americans have benefited from access to trails and outdoor recreation opportunities, as well as clean air and water preservation, which would not have been possible without the conservation funding provided by LWCF.

In addition to full, permanent funding for the LWCF, the Great American Outdoors Act allocates $9.5 billion to address the decades-old maintenance backlog on our public lands. The National Parks Service will receive $6.65 billion over five years, and the Forest Service will receive $1.425 billion. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education will each receive $475 million to tackle deferred maintenance projects. Popular sites in Washington state could receive millions in funding, including Olympic National Park, which has $262 million in deferred maintenance costs, and Mt. Rainier, which has $186 million. And because both the LWCF and the investments in park maintenance are paid for by royalties on offshore oil and gas drilling, these funds won’t require new taxes or federal debt.

In her remarks, Cantwell highlighted the importance of the legislation in helping connect more Washingtonians and Americans from all walks of life with the outdoors.

“98 percent of the counties across this country have used the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Cantwell said. “For us in the state of Washington, it has helped us establish iconic places like Gasworks Park, Bidwell Park near Spokane, the Burke Bridge Creek trail that winds through Vancouver, or the Warren G. Magnuson Park at Sandpoint. It has been used for valuable conservation easements, and it has been used to help on popular forest legacy programs, which partner with timber owners to promote sustainable forestry.”

Video of Senator Cantwell’s floor speech is available HERE, and audio is available HERE.