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Policy Pulse: Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanently Reauthorized

Outdoor America 2019 Issue 2
Sunset in the Everglades

In March, President Trump signed into law legislation that permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). For the first time since its inception, LWCF will no longer need Congress to renew the authority (effective legal power) of the nation’s most successful conservation program. LWCF is funded with a portion of the royalties from offshore energy extraction. These funds are used to conserve public land and provide access to outdoor recreation locally.

Permanent reauthorization of LWCF has been a top priority for the League. Now that this hurdle has been overcome, we must turn our attention to funding for this mainstay of American conservation.

The $900 million originally authorized by Congress to be used for LWCF each year is now less than 10 percent of the annual revenue deposited in the U.S. Treasury from oil and gas leasing receipts. Despite the abundant available funding (at no cost to tax payers), Congress has only provided the full $900 million in LWCF funding once in 50 years. Instead, Congress has diverted more than 50 percent of authorized LWCF funds for other purposes.

Full annual funding for LWCF is a League priority and we will continue to advocate for this important investment in public land conservation and outdoor recreation.

Tell your senator to support full funding for LWCF

Fly fisherman, Seneca Creek tributary in Pendleton County WV

Ikes Oppose Effort to Reduce Protections for Streams and Wetlands

In February, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers began accepting public comments on the Trump Administration’s definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) – a regulation that tells agency staff which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act.

If this new regulation is finalized as proposed, it would no longer be illegal under federal law to dump pollution directly into up to 70 percent of streams across America or drain millions of acres of wetlands without a permit.

This regulation would define WOTUS in a way that eliminates Clean Water Act protections for all wetlands that do not have a surface connection to a protected water body. This means that if a wetland does not actually touch a large river, lake, or ocean, it could be drained and filled without a permit. In addition, streams that only flow after rain or snow events would lose protection, and streams that regularly flow just part of the year will only be protected if they flow directly into another stream that flows continuously all year.

And the threat to intermittent streams could get even worse. The agencies specifically requested comments on how Clean Water Act protections should be further limited to only streams that flow continuously all year. In other words, they ask point blank: tell us how we can eliminate protections for more tributaries.

This proposal threatens to dramatically harm water quality across America and fails to account for science, the law, or the outdoor recreation economy. Unfortunately, EPA and the Corps opened the comment period for just 60 days, dramatically limiting the American public’s ability to provide input. However, the League actively drove public comments while the comment period was open. In addition to our own comments, the League provided a template for members to use so that they could submit comments opposing this rule. We also recruited IWLA chapters and divisions to sign on to a comment letter with other sportsmen’s and conservation groups.

Despite EPA’s attempt to short circuit opposition through a very short comment period, the League refused to be silenced and worked diligently to make our voice – and the voices of our members – heard.

Jared Mott, IWLA Conservation Director