Access to our parks is at risk, time for Congress to act

Access to our parks is at risk, time for Congress to act

Whether they’re hiking in a state or national park, fishing at the edge of a river, or simply walking on the shores of the ocean, families across the country cherish their time spent in the great outdoors. Our access to America’s iconic landscapes and waterways has been protected for 50 years by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of our nation’s most important conservation programs. 

Americans of all stripes reap the benefits of these protected places, which help support local businesses and provide outdoor access and opportunities for hunters, fishermen, climbers, hikers, bikers, and campers across America. For many Latinos and other diverse urban communities, sites funded through this program often provide their only means to experience the outdoors. 


In the coming days, Congress is set to pass a spending bill that will provide resources for essential government agencies and programs, and it may be their last chance to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund before it expires in September. Our leaders in Washington should seize this opportunity so that Americans can continue enjoying our parks, lands, waters, wildlife, and way of life for generations to come. 

The fund is a critical component to protecting and conserving outdoor spaces for wildlife and recreation, which in turn helps to support sustainable, American jobs in both urban and suburban areas. According to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, outdoor recreation, natural resource preservation, and historic preservation activities provide a powerful building block in our national economy that supports 9.4 million jobs and contributes a total of $1.06 trillion annually. As the outdoor recreation industry continues to grow, permanently reauthorizing the fund will allow local businesses to continue growing and provide entrepreneurs the certainty they need to start a new venture or invest in a new business. 

This week we are counting on America's leaders to reauthorize the fund and guarantee our families are able to hunt, fish, hike, and enjoy America’s iconic landscapes and waterways for generations to come. Failure to do so will not only have terrible consequences for the 9.4 million hard-working Americans that depend on outdoor recreation and preservation activities, but it will deny our children the ability to make precious memories exploring more than 41,000 other Land and Water Conservation Fund state and local park projects across the country. 

More than 50 years ago, Congress created the fund as a bipartisan promise to safeguard this country’s natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage. Now is the time for Congress to set aside politics again and stand up for the vast majority of Americans and all our diverse communities who agree that the Land and Water Conservation Fund is essential to protecting the places we love and the way of life future generations deserve. 

Robert Fanger is chief communications officer at the Hispanic Access Foundation