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

According to Politico on September 13, 2018, the top Republican and Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee have struck a deal to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Among other provisions, the deal ensures that at least 40 percent of the fund goes toward state programs and another 40 percent at least goes toward federal ones.

“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 of Oregon. “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.”

Just a week ago on September 6, 2018, Evans met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), America’s most important conservation and recreation program. 

“"While this 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 78 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 (District 21). “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."

Evans and Sarinana came to Washington, D.C., as part of a delegation of elected officials from across the country, all of whom are U.S. military veterans. Members of the delegation are part of Elected Officials to Protect America’s Public Lands, a nonpartisan group of veterans serving in elected office.

“If LWCF dried up a lot of our children wouldn’t be able to play baseball, go to our parks, fish or swim,” said Sarinana, who is a school teacher. “When my son, who is a Marine, got back from Afghanistan the second thing he wanted to do was to go to the top of the crest. He said Albuquerque’s landscape is a lot like Afghanistan’s. He wanted to see Albuquerque in it’s fullest. It was really important to him. The top of the crest is a thoughtful place where you can think and relax. Veterans need places like that. It’s our responsibility to make sure LWCF continues for generations to come.”

Prior to the trip, Evans and Sarinana joined 78 other elected officials who are veterans and sent to a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke urging him to do everything in his power to protect the LWCF.

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 (OR) as they march to Capitol Hill to meet with US Senators about reauthorizing the LWCF.

"Since 2000, Oregon has received over $10,000,000 in grants from the LWCF enabling millions more in leveraged programming. Simply put, these projects would not have been possible absent LWCF support. As a home-grown Oregonian, as a state legislator, and as a veteran I believe it is our duty to stand up for future generations," added Evans.

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.

 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 that expires Sept. 30th and might also pave the way for the Senate to more quickly pass a broad water infrastructure package.