For 52 years the Land and Water Conservation Fund has supported projects across the Country that provide important recreational access for hunting and fishing, neighborhood parks and trails, and natural areas that sustain clean water and wildlife habitat.

Over the decades hundreds of these projects, big and small, including the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge to the local City Park Playground in Rockwell City have been made possible in Iowa through Land and Water Conservation Funds. However, the conservation fund is set to expire in September 2018 unless it is reauthorized. Senator Ernst recently joined a bipartisan group of Senators and signed on to S 896 to permanently re- authorize LWCF.

We thank Senator Ernst for supporting LWCF, which protects some of our most special and unique places in Iowa, such as the Northern Tallgrass Prairie, Neal Smith and Driftless Area National Wildlife Refuges, and the Effigy Mounds National Monument. In addition, LWCF is a cost-effective way to enhance conservation through projects such as watershed, forest and wetland conservation.

Instead of using taxpayer dollars, the fund is based on a simple idea: that a small portion of the billions in annual offshore oil and gas revenues the Government receives should be directed to protect important land and water resources. In October, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced that Iowa will receive 1.2 million dollars to be distributed across the state adding to the over 54 million dollars Iowa has already received for the state grant program.

Outdoor recreation is an important piece of our economy and quality of life. In fact, in a recently release report from the Outdoor Industry Association, Iowans are more likely to participate in camping and fishing than the average American. This love for the outdoors, detailed in the report, led to an outdoor recreational industry that sustains 83,000 direct jobs and generates $8.7 billion in consumer spending annually.

LWCF projects that grow our economy through outdoor recreation include a fishing pier at Jester Park in Polk County, a campground, trail, and day use area at Darkins Lake in Story County and camping cabins at Dog Creek Park in O’Brien County. In Pottawattamie County, LWCF funds helped create access to the West Nishnabotna Water Trail at Botna Bend Park.

Access bottlenecks for hunting and fishing can be an easy problem to fix with small access facilitation projects, easements and rights of way, but such small projects often do not make it to the top of federal agencies’ lists of priorities. S869, and every major piece of legislation involving LWCF in recent years includes a 1.5 percent set-aside of funds specifically for sportsmen’s access projects, to make public lands truly public.

We thank Sen. Ernst for her recognition of how important the Land and Water Conservation Fund is to Iowa and her commitment to reauthorization. We hope her colleagues will join her in the continuation of this great program that protects some of the most special places in Iowa and beyond.