Today, after months of negotiations and legislative hurdles, a pro-public lands package which bundles together over 100 individual lands bills and includes Senator Maria Cantwell’s legislation to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has passed the Senate! The Land and Water Conservation Fund supports our treasured public lands that protect ancient forests, salmon spawning streams, sources for safe and clean drinking water and amazing recreation opportunities.
The public lands package also includes several pieces of legislation that would benefit public lands in Washington State including the Methow Headwaters Protection Act, Mountain to Sound Greenway Heritage Area designation, and National Nordic Museum designation.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is our country’s most important conservation program, supporting local economies, providing infrastructure for public health, tourism and recreation, and increasing access to the outdoors in all states and territories. It is paid for with non-taxpayer dollars and is overwhelmingly popular and has maintained broad bipartisan support due to its more than half-century history of successful, locally-driven conservation.
LWCF has invested $637 million in protecting the places that matter most to Washingtonians, like Mount Rainier and Olympic National Park, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Columbia Gorge, local parks, working forests and wildlife refuges throughout the state.
In addition, the package also includes other important pieces of public lands legislation relevant to Washington State including:
- Methow Headwaters Protection Act which calls for permanent protection of about 340,000 acres of public land in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest from new industrial-scale mine development. It would permanently restrict potential mining related development (including near Flagg Mountain) to protect the headwaters of the Methow River and the robust local tourism economy and rural communities in the valley.
- The Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area Act would recognize a scenic byway and historic transportation corridor through 2,400 square miles that includes the Cascade peaks, wilderness lakes and forests, as well as a network of roads, rails and trails. It includes farms and forests, historic sites, lakes, campgrounds, rivers and wildlife habitat. The area is home to 1.4 million residents in 28 cities and 1,600 miles of trails.
- National Nordic Museum Designation which recognizes the museum’s unique work to preserve, celebrate, and educate the American public about Nordic history, culture, and art by designating the Nordic Museum in Seattle as the National Nordic Museum.
Legislation that protects our public lands helps everyone: it protects clean air, clean water, combats climate change and boosts our local economies. In Washington state alone, the outdoor recreation economy contributes over $26 billion in consumer spending and supports more than 201,000 direct jobs. Our nation’s robust outdoor recreation economy generates over $887 billion in annual consumer spending and supports 7.6 million American jobs.