Please Ask Your Senators to Support Full Funding for the Land & Water Conservation Fund
Earlier this year, the Land and Water Conservation Fund received permanent reauthorization when Congress voted to approve the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 – an omnibus lands act that protected public lands and modified management provisions. The next step in ensuring the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) receives the funding it deserves – not from American taxpayers but from a small percentage of offshore gas and oil drilling revenues – is guaranteed full-funding.
Our friends in Washington, D.C. have told us that full funding for LWCF will be discussed as early as next Tuesday, November 19. As a friend of the Arizona Trail Association, we are asking you to please reach out to Arizona’s Senators Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema today to encourage them to advocate for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
LWCF is a simple idea. It’s a promise by the United States to its people to take a small portion of revenues from the exploitation of one public resource – offshore oil and gas – and use it to pay for the conservation of another resource: public lands, water, parks, and natural places.
Over the past five decades, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has positively impacted every state in the nation, investing billions to protect and enhance our most treasured places. LWCF has been used to support the acquisition of land and conservation easements to protect Saguaro and Grand Canyon National Parks, wildlife refuges, forests and trails. It protects critical wildlife habitat, watersheds and recreational access, and conserves working farms, ranches and forestlands that enhance local economies. But since 1964, the program has only been fully funded twice! For every dollar diverted away from LWCF, we lose a piece of the outdoors forever.
How Can LWCF Help Protect the Arizona Trail?
The Arizona Trail Association intends to apply for Land and Water Conservation Funds to protect the most vulnerable pieces of land near the Arizona Trail – especially Arizona State Trust Lands that can be sold at auction at any time. Once these lands are sold, the trail must move. And in some parts of the state, there’s nowhere for the trail to move. Purchasing State Lands would benefit Arizona’s schools since they’re the beneficiaries of land sales, and would forever protect the Arizona Trail. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the only mechanism the ATA has found to purchase large tracts of land for the purposes of conservation.
The Threats Are Real
Nearly 10% of the 800-mile Arizona Trail crosses State Trust Lands on a 15-foot-wide right-of-way. Once the land is sold, the right-of-way (and the trail) must move. Next year, the ATA will need to rebuild 6 miles of the Arizona Trail near Ripsey Wash (Tortilla Mountains Passage) since its current location on State Lands was recently sold to Asarco for the purposes of storing excess mine tailings. The current alignment of the AZT will be buried under tons of waste rock as early as 2021. The silver lining is that Asarco has agreed to pay for new trail construction in the winter of 2020, as well as a new trailhead since the current Florence-Kelvin Trailhead will be consumed by the project.
The bad news is that this could happen over and over again in Pima, Pinal and Coconino Counties…and future property owners may not be as generous as Asarco. We need the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect the Arizona Trail in perpetuity.
Calling All Members
We will be calling ATA members by telephone over the next week, and can patch you through directly to our Senators’ offices in Washington, D.C. Just a heads up that we’ll be calling you soon. Together, let’s remind our elected officials how important this Fund is for present and future generations of Arizonans and Americans.