After Decade-Long Effort to Secure Full LWCF Funding, Support Builds around Bennet’s Proposal
Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and reduce the $19 billion dollar maintenance backlog on our public lands. Bennet announced the bipartisan legislation at a press conference last week.
“From Rocky Mountain National Park to the Animas River Trail, Colorado’s public lands are central to our identity and vital for our economy. After working on these proposals for years, I’m hopeful that we’ve reached a tipping point with the legislation we’ve introduced today to fully fund LWCF and address the staggering maintenance backlog, which is the result of years of chronic underfunding for our public lands,” said Bennet. “I hope that this is the start of something that our children and grandchildren can look back on and thank us for. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this bill over the finish line.”
The Great American Outdoors Act would permanently fund LWCF at a level of $900 million and establish a separate restoration fund to address the maintenance backlog at the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Education, and the Bureau of Land Management using existing revenues from on and offshore energy development.
Bennet has made permanently reauthorizing and fully funding LWCF a top priority since joining the Senate in 2009.
Bennet led the effort to permanently reauthorize the program in Congress with U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), introducing bipartisan legislation in 2015, and in every subsequent Congress. When LWCF expired in September 2015, Bennet spoke on the Senate floor and wrote to Congressional leadership to help secure a three-year authorization in the end-of-year spending bill. When the program was set to expire again in September 2018, Bennet worked with Burr to file an amendment to the Farm Bill. He also introduced a separate bill with U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Burr to permanently reauthorize and fully fund LWCF. In March 2019, he successfully advocated for the permanent reauthorization of LWCF as part of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. He joined the full funding bill again in April 2019 when it was reintroduced.
Over the years, Bennet has visited several LWCF-funded projects in Colorado, including the Animas River Trail in 2016 and the Yampa River Project in 2018, to learn about and highlight the importance of LWCF in Colorado. LWCF has invested more than $281 million in Colorado projects since its inception.
Bennet has also advocated for robust funding for federal land management agencies for years, sending a letter to former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in 2017 with proposals to address the national park maintenance backlog in Colorado. Bennet cosponsored the Restore Our Parks Act in 2018, and was an original cosponsor of the legislation when it was reintroduced in 2019.