Congress must pass permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund

America’s beauty is defined by iconic National Parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon. America’s history resides in the fields at Gettysburg National Military Park and in the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. America’s wildlife is exemplified by the polar bears, caribou, and other unique species of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And America’s culture is built around weekends at the ballfield, picnics in neighborhood parks, and gatherings at community centers.

It is these pillars of American life that are at stake if we fail to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the single most important and impactful conservation tool we have at our disposal as a nation today.

For more than five decades, the LWCF has funded recreation and conservation projects in every single state – and nearly every county – in the country. The places preserved through this program range from our wildest and most remote outdoor spaces to the lights at the Laveen School District ballfields in my downtown Phoenix, Ariz., congressional district.

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That’s why, today, I joined colleagues on both sides of the aisle to introduce legislation that would provide a $900 million permanent, dedicated funding source for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Over its 50-year history, the LWCF has given Americans the opportunity to make memories hunting, fishing, camping and otherwise enjoying our public lands, together. As the father of a 2-year-old who lives in the shadow of South Mountain Park, I know firsthand the importance of sharing our special public places with the next generation, and I look forward to the memories my son and I will make together exploring the outdoors as he grows.

The LWCF is the perfect demonstration of how the great outdoors is vital both to our way of life in America and to our economic success, from sea to shining sea. The outdoor recreation industry employs nearly 8 million Americans and contributes a staggering $887 billion annually to our economy while generating $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenue to fund our public schools and vital social programs on which our communities depend.

Nearly $1 billion is raised and authorized to be allocated to LWCF projects each year, but under current law, this funding still needs to be appropriated by Congress in order to be spent. Every year that goes by without full funding is a year that we endanger the beauty, history, wildlife, and culture Americans experience through our public lands.

That’s why we have to act now to pass full, permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund this Congress. Future generations of Americans are depending on it.

Gallego represents the 7th District of Arizona.