EOPA Veterans who are lawmakers see results of Capitol Hill meetings as Land and Water Conservation Fund set to be permanently funded

Members of the Elected Officials to Protect America's Lands met with Sen. Rob Wyden, and other US Senators, on Sept 6th on Capitol Hill to urge the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Sen Wyden, and all the US Senators they met met with want the LWCF 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).

Photos and Article By Ramona du Houx

Elected Officials to Protect America's Land, a group of veterans who are also lawmakers, traveled to D.C. in September to urge Interior Sec. Zinke to help reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, (LWCF), which brings millions to each state every year for the upkeep of our parks and other public lands.

They came from Oregon to Maine to D.C. determined to get some action out of Congress to protect our Nation's public lands.

"Our public lands serve as a place where families can go to camp, fish, swim, sail, hunt and enjoy the outdoors. As a veteran and the mother of a son who has served in Afghanistan, the calm and tranquil lakes and wilderness have served us as a healing place. As a child I helped protect the land by picking up the trash along a favorite trail,"said State Representative Debra Maria Sarinana (NM).  

"As an elected official, I stand with my fellow veterans demanding Zinke tell Congress how vital the LWCF is to veterans, the people of New Mexico and citizens across the country. I stand with the representatives from both parties in supporting H.R. 502, a bill that would permanently reauthorize LWCF. Our iconic lands, sacred in our collective memory, are threatened if LWCF is allowed to expire. I call on you to add your voices to the chorus demanding that House Speaker Paul Ryan move to vote on H.R. 502, for our veterans, our citizens and our children."  

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 seven 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. Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Raúl Grijalva's (D-Ariz.) agreement, with support from Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), would extend the life of the conservation program and might also pave the way for the Senate to more quickly pass a broad water infrastructure package.

"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.

"Our public lands serve as a place where families can go to camp, fish, swim, sail, hunt and enjoy the outdoors. As a veteran and the mother of a son who has served in Afghanistan, the calm and tranquil lakes and wilderness have served us as a healing place. As a child I helped protect the land by picking up the trash along a favorite trail,"said State Representative Debra Maria Sarinana (NM).  

"As an elected official, I stand with my fellow veterans demanding Zinke tell Congress how vital the LWCF is to veterans, the people of New Mexico and citizens across the country. I stand with the representatives from both parties in supporting H.R. 502, a bill that would permanently reauthorize LWCF. Our iconic lands, sacred in our collective memory, are threatened if LWCF is allowed to expire. I call on you to add your voices to the chorus demanding that House Speaker Paul Ryan move to vote on H.R. 502, for our veterans, our citizens and our children."  

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).

Photo: Sen. Angus King of Maine looks at the special coin presented to him from the Elected Officials to Protect America's Land just after he placed it along side his other veteran commemorative coins. 

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)

In the back: Delegate Pat Young (MD), Sen. Rick Kolowski (NE), Asm. Felix Ortiz (NY) In the front Rep. Michael Sheeh (OH), Rep. Debbie Sarinana (NM) and Rep. Paul Evans as they march to Capitol Hill to meet with US Senators about reauthorizing the LWCF.

"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.