Nevada Association of Conservation Districts President
Nevada’s outdoors is woven into the fabric of its character as much as the ranch hand or fly rod itself. Over the past five decades one program has done more for our outdoors statewide than any other, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). That is why I encourage Senator Heller to fight to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the program by cosponsoring S. 569 and signing the bipartisan Senators letter encouraging leadership to take a vote in support of LWCF.
LWCF, has played a critical role in conserving and enhancing our public lands, water, working farms and ranches, and our outdoor recreation economy. The program is funded by a portion of federal offshore energy revenues and channels those monies to states at no cost to taxpayers. Unfortunately, funding for this more than 50-year program runs out at the end of September 2018 unless Congress votes to reauthorize it.
The LWCF has provided funding to help conserve and enhance some of Nevada’s best lands by establishing recreational access for hunting, fishing and offering financial compensation for conservation easements allowing family farms and ranches to continue operation on their land. Nevada has received approximately $102 million in LWCF funding over the past five decades, protecting places such as the Toiyabe National Forest, Stillwater and Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuges, Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
However, it is not just our land, water, and wildlife that benefit from LWCF. The landscapes that LWCF conserves and enhances is also integral to the culture and recreation economies of urban and rural Nevadan communities. The LWCF is a vital component of job creation and economic development through support for public land infrastructure. A recent economic report from the Outdoor Industry Association found outdoor recreation generates $12.6 billion in consumer spending in Nevada, 87,000 jobs which generate $4 billion in wages and salaries, and produces $1.1 billion annually in state and local tax revenue. Further, the U.S. Census reports that each year over 788,000 people hunt, fish, or enjoy wildlife-watching in Nevada, contributing $917 million in wildlife recreation spending to the state economy.
Of particular importance to Nevada is the Forest Legacy Program (FLP) funded under LWCF, to help protect working forests. The FLP cost-share funding supports timber sector jobs and sustainable forest operations while enhancing wildlife habitat, water quality and recreation. The FLP assists states and private forest owners to maintain working forest lands through matching grants for permanent conservation easement and fee acquisitions, and has leveraged approximately $438,000 in federal funds to invest $600,000 in Nevada’s forests, while protecting air and water quality, wildlife habitat, access for recreation and other public benefits provided by forests.
LWCF state assistance grants have further supported hundreds of projects across Nevada’s state and local parks including Sunset Park, Lorenzi Park and Springs Preserve in Las Vegas, Valley of Fire State Park and Washoe Lake State Park.
I encourage Sen. Heller to fight for future investments in our land, water, agriculture operations, and outdoor recreation economy.