Vedio courtesy Elected Officials to Protect America's Lands
Article and still photos by Ramona du Houx
Veterans who are also lawmakers traveled to D.C. to urge Interior Sec. Zinke to help reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which brings millions to each state every year for the upkeep of our parks and other public lands.
"We are committed to preserving and protecting America’s public lands — by doing so we are continuing our mission to preserve and protect our nation," said Former Maine State Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx, who served in the Marines in Iraq and is now a Lieutenant in the Navy Reserves.
Before their visit to Capitol Hill, the Elected Officials to Protect America's Lands had 80 veterans who are elected officials sign on to a letter they sent to Sec. Zinke insisting that he reauthorize the LWCF in full.
A week after their D.C. visit - where they called on 7 U.S. Senators to educate them about the effort - the bill supporting the LWCF made it out of committee, where it had been stalled for a year.
"The apparent Permanente resolution of the LWCF budget is a critical step in fostering both better stewardship of our natural spaces and an important symbol: Veterans can play a helpful role in facilitating good policy,” said State Representative Paul Evans (OR). “It’s our job to stand up, as veterans, and make sure government works for everyone. I went to D.C. because we have to make sure sustainability and stewardship are national priorities. Our natural spaces are at least as important, in terms of national security, as our oil.”
Now the bill needs to be brought to the floor of Congress for a vote.
"While having the bill come out of committee is an important milestone, there is more work to be done. I'm glad our delegation had the opportunity to met with our US. Senators. With 80 veterans who are lawmakers signing the letter to Sec. Zinke insisting on reauthorization of LWCF I feel we've played our part. Veterans understand the importance of our natural places that give solace to millions. They are a part of our cultural heritage, without them we wouldn't be the nation we are,” said State Representative Debra Maria Sarinana (NM). “LWCF needs permanent reauthorization as well as full and dedicated funding. As the Committee moves to advance legislation allocating energy revenues for other purposes, it is vital that Congress continues to provide guaranteed funding to LWCF."
Since 1964, LWCF has touched every state, conserving national parks and forests, land by rivers, lakes and oceans, working forests, farms and ranches, fish and wildlife refuges, trails, and more than 41,000 state and local parks in every corner of the United States. All this has been done at no cost to taxpayers as the program is entirely funded through royalties collected on offshore drilling.
"Congress needs to be reminded that our natural resources cannot be neglected. I was pleased to join with my state legislative colleagues to make the case to renew the Land and Water Conservation Fund in Washington," said Assistant Speaker of the House, Felix W. Ortiz (NY).
The LWCF runs out of funding Sept. 30, 2018.
Members of the Elected Officials to Protect America's Lands met with Sen. Rob Wyden, and other U.S. Senators, on Sept 6th on Capitol Hill to urge the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Sen Wyden, and all the Congressional members they met met with are supportive of the LWCF becoming fully funded. From left to right in the back: State Sen. Rick Kolowski (NE), Asm. Felix Ortiz (NY) US Senator Rob Wyden, State Rep. Paul Evans, Former State Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx, (ME) Delegate Pat Young (MD). In the front: State Rep. Debbie Sarinana,(NM) and Rep. Michael Sheehy (OH).
The elected officials met with the following Members of Congress:
- Sen. Ron Wyden (OR)
- Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR)
- Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM)
- Sen. Tom Udall (NM)
- Sen. Angus King (ME)
- Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4)
- Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY)
- Sen. Rob Portman (OH)