Bennet Has Led the Fight to Fully Fund LWCF, Invest in Our Public Lands for Over a Decade
Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet applauded House passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, historic public lands legislation to permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million and begin to address the $19 billion public lands maintenance backlog. After introducing the Great American Outdoors Act in March, Bennet helped pass this landmark legislation in the Senate in June. The bill now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
Since his arrival to the U.S. Senate, Bennet has championed LWCF, introducing legislation to fully fund the program in every Congress since 2010, while fighting for more infrastructure, maintenance, and recreation funding for our land management agencies.
“Our public lands are essential to who we are in Colorado, and critical to our economy,” said Bennet. “Today is a great day for our state thanks to all of the Coloradans who have worked tirelessly over the last decade to make fully funding LWCF a reality. I look forward to the president signing this bill into law, so that we can finally begin making critical investments in our forests, parks, and public lands. At the same time, our work on public lands is not done. We must find a way to pass the CORE Act to protect recreation, wildlife, and wilderness areas across Colorado.”
Bennet’s Record on LWCF:
Bennet has made permanently reauthorizing and fully funding LWCF a top priority since joining the Senate more than a decade ago, co-sponsoring legislation to fully fund LWCF in 2010 and in every subsequent Congress. In 2015, Bennet served as the lead Democrat, alongside lead Republican U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), on bipartisan legislation to permanently reauthorize the program. 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, and later successfully secured permanent reauthorization of LWCF as part of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act in March 2019. He joined the full-funding bill for the sixth Congress in a row in April 2019 when it was reintroduced.
LWCF has invested more than $281 million in Colorado projects since its inception in the 1960s.
Over the years, Bennet has worked alongside local elected leaders, conservationists, and private landowners to support and secure funding for locally-led LWCF projects. Bennet has also visited several LWCF-funded projects, such as the Ophir Valley in 2014, the Animas River Trail in 2016, and the Yampa River Project in 2018, to highlight the importance of LWCF in Colorado.
- In 2009, Bennet supported the Ben Delatour Scout Ranch as a top conservation funding priority. After working with the Longs Peak Council of the Boy Scouts of America for two years to make this priority a reality, Bennet helped permanently protect the Ben Delatour Scout Ranch using LWCF dollars.
- In 2010 and 2012, Bennet helped secure funding for properties along the Gunnison River to expand the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area and the Bangs Canyon Special Recreation Management Area.
- In 2010, Bennet celebrated the completion of an LWCF project to permanently protect 2,800 acres of land owned by Snow Mountain Ranch/YMCA of the Rockies.
- In 2013, Bennet pushed to protect the Sawtooth Mountain Ranch on Owl Creek Pass using LWCF dollars under the Forest Legacy program. After visiting the site in July 2014, Bennet later announced that the necessary funds were approved.
- In 2014, Bennet visited the Ophir Valley to hike near a recently completed LWCF project , one that he long supported, to protect parts of the valley from future mining and development.
- In 2015, Bennet celebrated the conservation of the Toll and Ranch Property, one of the largest intact private properties along the Front Range in the South Boulder Creek Watershed.
- In 2016, Bennet took a raft trip along the Upper Colorado River to tour an LWCF project that was underway to expand public access in Eagle County. After writing in support of the effort, he applauded the completion of the project in 2019.
- In 2017, after weighing in with strong support, Bennet celebrated the completion of the Cascade Cottage project in Rocky Mountain National Park with which NPS acquired the last privately-held commercial operation in the park.
- In 2018, Bennet recognized the completion of an LWCF project near the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park that he supported throughout the process. The project added 2,494 acres to the park.
- In 2019, Bennet wrote in support of local efforts for the White River National Forest to acquire the Sweetwater Lake property, a project that was recently ranked as a top priority for future funding and purchased by The Conservation Fund earlier this month.
Land Management Agency Funding:
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 co-sponsored the Restore Our Parks Act in 2018, and then visited Rocky Mountain National Park to discuss the need to pass the bill, highlighting opportunities to improve employee housing. Bennet was an original co-sponsor of the legislation when it was reintroduced in 2019. In addition to his work on the national park maintenance backlog, Bennet led the effort to end fire borrowing and reform the Forest Service budget to make more funding available for non-fire related activities. He has continued to press the administration to invest in recreation, infrastructure, and forest health, leading the Colorado delegation in a recent letter to leadership regarding future stimulus legislation.