WASHINGTON – The Interior Department today announced its intent to restore clarity to the implementation of and elevate conservation and access programs in the Land and Water Conservation Fund, reversing damaging measures put in place by former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and reinstating bipartisan language passed overwhelmingly by Congress in the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act and the Great American Outdoors Act.
The secretarial order from Acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega rescinds the order from the previous administration, removing a litany of rules governing deployment of LWCF funds that effectively eliminated funding for land acquisition projects by the Bureau of Land Management and stipulated that state and local officials could veto LWCF-funded land acquisitions from willing sellers (thereby infringing on the rights of private landowners). Interior’s new order also restores the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program, LWCF’s only competitive grant program dedicated to underserved recreation needs in urban areas – a program experiencing increased demands and needs.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers for years has advocated for LWCF’s permanent reauthorization and full, dedicated funding and had strongly criticized the actions by the former administration at the time they were announced. BHA welcomed today’s action by the Biden administration.
“No other federal program has achieved such substantial, durable outcomes – outcomes that have benefited every county and citizens nationwide – than the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “Over and over again, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers members have joined with other sportsmen and women, recreationists, business owners and others to stand up for LWCF. Today we offer thanks to the Biden administration for heeding the wishes of the people and the intent of bipartisan lawmakers to restore clarity and purpose to LWCF implementation.
“For over half a century, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has enhanced public access, conserved critical fish and wildlife habitat and bolstered state and local recreation infrastructure,” Tawney continued. “It’s well established as the most effective and popular conservation and access program in the country. BHA looks forward to working with the Biden administration to ensure that crucial LWCF funds are deployed in ways that will open up public recreational and access opportunities and sustain important populations of fish and wildlife, continuing a national outdoors legacy that is unique the world over.”
Advanced by Congress and signed into law last August, the Great American Outdoors Act achieved a longtime BHA goal by securing resources for deferred maintenance needs on public lands and ensuring full and dedicated funding at $900 million annually for LWCF. The Dingell Act, which became law in 2019, responded to the outspoken advocacy by millions of Americans, including sportsmen and women, by permanently reauthorizing LWCF.
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