The funding source that secured Mitchell Hill as part of San Juan Island’s English Camp may not be available for other public lands. Financing for the national Land and Water Conservation Fund expired in September and legislators like U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-02) are requesting permanent funding through a new bill.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act was passed by Congress in 1965 “to assist in preserving, developing, and assuring accessibility”…. to “outdoor recreation resources.”
Without the fund, the National Park Service would not have had the $6 million needed to purchase Mitchell Hill’s 312 acres. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed a bill to add Mitchell Hill to the San Juan Island Historical National Park, which is divided into two sites on the island, English Camp and American Camp. In September, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources posted on Twitter that acquiring Mitchell Hill “preserved 2.9 miles of trails and a 19th-century military road.”
Now, securing more public land with the fund is in question. According to Larsen, more than $675 million from the conservation fund was awarded to Washington state in the last 50 years.
One opponent to the fund is U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (UT-01), who says the federal government does not pay enough to states in compensation for lost taxes, which cannot be collected on federally owned land.
Larsen told the Journal that Washington state received almost $29 million in 2018 to offset lost tax revenue on federally managed land. This money, along with the conservation act fund, he said, are needed to support local services for residents and preservation projects. On Dec. 20, Larsen sent a letter to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, calling for Congress to approve permanent funding.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the cornerstone of environmental conservation which helps preserve Washington state’s public lands and waters,” wrote Larsen. “A healthy environment is vital to Washingtonians’ way of life and the regional economy.”
Read Larsen’s full letter below.
Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi,
I write in strong support of the passage of the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act (H.R. 6759). Congress must pass this bipartisan legislation to permanently reauthorize and allocate mandatory funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund before the end of the 115th Congress.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the cornerstone of environmental conservation which helps preserve Washington state’s public lands and waters. Over the last 50 years, Washington state has received more than $675 million from the LWCF to help protect and restore green spaces such as Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, Chuckanut Bay and the Wild Sky Wilderness in my district. A healthy environment is vital to Washingtonians’ way of life and the regional economy. Outdoor recreation is responsible for an estimated 7.6 million jobs in the United States and plays a significant role in the rural economies and for local businesses in the Second District.
I am a proud cosponsor of H.R.6759, which would permanently reauthorize and fully fund the LWCF. Securing annual, mandatory appropriations and permanent reauthorization for the LWCF will safeguard the nation’s environmental heritage and guarantee green spaces and pristine waters are available for the enjoyment of future generations.
Congress cannot afford to hesitate to act on this issue any longer. I strongly support permanent reauthorization of the LWCF and the passage of the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act (H.R. 6759) before the end of the 115th Congress.
Member of Congress