Environmental advocates in Nevada want U.S. lawmakers to fully fund a decades-old revenue stream that has contributed more than $100 million to outdoor preservation projects in the state since its inception.
By authorizing only a partial appropriation each year of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, an act established by Congress in 1964, the federal government is preventing more robust protection of public lands and missing an opportunity to enhance outdoor recreation, which has proved to be a major economic driver in Nevada, advocates say.
“Without the funding of the (Land and Water Conservation Fund), countless jobs and millions in revenue from the outdoor recreation industry could be at risk,” said David Quinlan, market coordinator for REI, an outdoor sports and recreation retail chain.
The fund is bankrolled by fees from offshore oil and gas industry leases and authorized to deliver $900 million annually to states, but it has only been fully funded twice in its history, according to a report released Wednesday.
Instead lawmakers have often diverted funding to non-conservation projects, leaving more than half of the roughly $41 billion in revenue accrued over the fund’s lifetime to be spent elsewhere, according to the report. The fund received $495 million during the most recent federal budget cycle, a modest increase over the previous year.
Environmental leaders including Mauricia Baca, executive director of Get Outdoors Nevada, and Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones spoke about the need for full funding during a news conference to announce the report inside REI store in Las Vegas.
Co-produced by the Environment Nevada Research and Policy Center, and Frontier Group, the report detailed the fund’s contributions to the state while seeking to pressure Congress to pass pending bipartisan legislation that would permanently provide the maximum amount of funding every year.
Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nevada, is a sponsor of the LWCF Permanent Funding Act. She called the fund “so important to the conservation of public lands and waterways throughout our country,” noting that she also sponsored bipartisan legislation signed into law by President Trump last year that ensured the fund would not go away.
“There’s no doubt the LWCF has bipartisan support in Congress, and I’ll keep advocating to my colleagues, leadership, and this administration to give it the best shot of full and permanent funding,” she said in a statement.
The fund has provided $60 million in Nevada to assist protecting national parks, forests, wildlife areas and more; $45 million for state, regional and local parks; and more than $3 million to the popular Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, according to the report.
Levi Kamolnick, the state director with Environment Nevada, said that more than 15 million people annually visit the state’s outdoors, from recreation enthusiasts to casual sightseers.
“Although it’s wonderful that so many are enjoying these places, we need to remember that we can only enjoy them so long as we invest in them,” he said.