The Land and Water Conservation Fund lapsed for the first time in 50 years last week. Despite broad bipartisan support in both the U.S. House and Senate, America’s most effective land conservation-funding program was allowed to expire because of an intransigent political minority, led by Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT).
So what happened when a fellow Member of Congress spoke truth to power to Congressman Bishop, asking him simply to follow regular order and schedule a hearing on the bill? Watch for yourself:
In the video, Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) asked that the House Natural Resources Committee consider reauthorizing LWCF, saying:
We have to move if we value this fund. This fund is a bargain. This is a basic compact where these public leases are offered up to private entities that extract oil and gas offshore and they make a lot of money. In return a portion of those royalties goes to these conservation and public access purposes. That’s been an essential bipartisan bargain that we have honored for 50 years.
In response: Congressman Bishop fumed and fumbled, but had no good answer for why he has continued to stifle debate and kill funding to the popular program.
Renewing the Land and Water Conservation Fund is not a partisan issue. Consider, for example, that:
- In the House, 30 Republicans signed a letter urging action on LWCF.
- Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) , and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have been leading the push to revive LWCF.
- In Colorado, Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) are working across the aisle to bring LWCF back.
- In Montana, the entire bipartisan delegation and the Governor are vocal backers of the fund.
- Conservative Wyoming Governor Matt Mead (R) asked for “quick” reauthorization of the program, noting that governors rely on it for conservation funding.
- U.S. Representatives from east to west and from north to south encourage leadership to take immediate action on LWCF or else “every state and district in the country will feel the damaging consequences to our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural landmarks.”
This kind of bipartisan support has been present since LWCF was created in 1964. The bill creating the LWCF passed the house on a voice vote and flew through the Senate on a vote of 92-1.
But funding to LWCF has now expired, not because of partisan bickering or disagreements, but only because of a single member of Congress who refuses to allow a simple up-or-down vote on renewing the fund.