(ALBUQUERQUE) – Nearly 25 New Mexico elected leaders this week sent a letter to both Republican and Democratic leadership of the United States Senate describing the local benefits of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and asking them to reauthorize and fully fund the landmark conservation legislation before it sunsets on September 30, 2015.
The letter, which was sent to Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Harry Reid (D-NV), outlines the $261 million invested in New Mexico public lands since 1965. This investment helped establish national monuments, protect public lands and, as a byproduct, create jobs in the construction and outdoor recreation industries. The outdoor recreation economy and industry supports about 47,000 jobs in New Mexico.
But, the New Mexico leaders noted, the benefits of the Land and Water Conservation Fund did not stop there.
In addition, “more than 1,000 grants—spread among every New Mexico county and totaling nearly $41 million—have been made though LWCF’s state-side program. These grants have been matched with state and local funds to plan, construct, and enhance parks, playgrounds, trails, ball fields, pools, and other recreation facilities in communities across the state,” the letter said.
The LWCF does not cost taxpayers anything, as the fund is fed by royalties from off-shore drilling activity. However, in calling not only for reauthorization but also for full funding, the elected leaders from across New Mexico acknowledge that the fund has often been diverted from its primary objective of land and water conservation.
“Sadly, only twice in the last 50 years has the fund been fully used for the purpose of conservation and park building,” the letter states.
“Clearly, our New Mexico’s leaders get it. They know the LWCF has built parks and ball fields in every corner of the state. This has created jobs and given our citizens places to recreate with their families,” said Sanders Moore, director of Environment New Mexico. “Thankfully, Senators Udall and Heinrich are helping to lead the fight for LWCF and save this popular program.”
Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich have both sponsored efforts to reauthorize and fully fund LWCF and have both long been champions for it.