The Land and Water Conservation Fund, a landmark American law, is up for reauthorization by Congress in less than 50 days, and 11 leading conservation organizations in Louisiana have expressed support—and urgency—for renewal of the law, which helps protect and improve habitat and sportsmen’s access.
This week, America’s Wetland Foundation, Audubon Louisiana, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Ducks Unlimited, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, the Land Trust for Louisiana, Louisiana Black Bear Conservation Coalition, Louisiana Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy of Louisiana, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and the Trust for Public Land released the following statement:
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been enriching the lives of Americans for 50 years, creating thousands of public recreation sites from National Parks to neighborhood ballfields. Louisiana in particular has benefited from the LWCF, both in its federal and state components.
The LWCF played a major role in the development of Louisiana’s two National Parks, Jean Lafitte and Cane River Creole. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park has units in Acadia, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lafourche, Orleans, and St. Landry Parishes, while Cane River Creole is located in Natchitoches. Between them, these parks have received over a million visitors since they have opened, including tourists from around the country and world.
The LWCF has been utilized to create and expand 12 of the 24 National Wildlife Refuges in Louisiana: Atchafalaya, Bayou Cocodrie, Bayou Sauvage, Big Branch, Black Bayou Lake, Bogue Chitto, Cat Island, Grand Cote, Lake Ophelia, Bayou Teche, Red River, and Tensas River. These Refuges provide critical wildlife habitat and prime areas for public hunting and fishing.
The LWCF has also helped fund over 700 state and local projects in Louisiana, in hundreds of cities and communities, including parks, boardwalks, boat ramps, and recreation centers. The Office of State Parks utilized the Fund to aid its state plan in 1965, and to develop and improve over 36 sites since then as the state administrator of LWCF. Local parish governments have worked with private partners to match federal funds to benefit their residents and the tourists who visit their areas.
Projects completed and underway in Louisiana reflect the mission of the LWCF to promote outdoor recreation, and play an important role in the ‘Outdoors Economy’ that provides many benefits to our state, supporting 48,000 jobs, generating $225 million in annual state tax revenue, and producing $3.2 billion annually in retail sales and services. The LWCF is funded through offshore oil production revenues, rather than tax dollars, and is a specified recipient of a portion of revenues in the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA), along with Gulf Coast States.
It is well understood now that the economic and environmental benefits of parks and refuges can extend beyond outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat. The area of the Red River National Wildlife Refuge added in 2014 included hundreds of acres that had been slated for development, but instead helped increase floodwater retention capacity in the recent (spring 2015) floods along the river. The Mollicy Farms Project on the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, another project funded with the help of the LWCF, accommodated floodwaters that helped prevent a levee breach downstream in Monroe in 2009. Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, located just outside of New Orleans, contributes to the city’s natural and constructed hurricane protection system.
Flood retention, infrastructure support, and coastal resiliency and restoration are some of the wider benefits that point to the future potential of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help Louisiana in years to come. We urge our Congressional delegation to support its reauthorization to help meet those needs.
The conservation groups cited a number of recent examples of the success of the LWCF in Louisiana and the diversity of the projects it has supported, including:
- The Red River National Wildlife Refuge, which was expanded by over 1,700 acres with the help of the LWCF in 2014
- The three newest National Wildlife Refuges in Louisiana, Cat Island, Bayou Teche, and Red River, which were all created with the help of the LWCF
- A number of National Wildlife Refuges in Louisiana that have benefited from the LWCF, such as Atchafalaya, Bayou Cocodrie, Bayou Teche, Cat Island, Grand Cote, and Tensas, and played a key role in recovery efforts for the Louisiana Black Bear
- Lake Arthur Park in Jefferson Davis Parish, which is being rebuilt through a LWCF grant
- Improvements to the Camp Salmen Interpretative Trail in St. Tammany Parish, which were completed in 2014 through a LWCF grant
- The town of Logansport, which utilized LWCF funds in 2013 to build a boardwalk near the Sabine River as part of Dennis Freeman Memorial Park
- Bryan Park in Downsville, La., which was completed in 2012 using a LWCF grant
- The pedestrian/bike path around University Lakes at Louisiana State University, which was completed in 2011 with the help of a LWCF grant
Park and recreation facilities funded through the LWCF are slated for completion over the next two years in Acadia, Concordia, Jefferson, LaSalle, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington Parishes. You might be surprised to learn what kinds of projects this important fund has made possible in your community.
It should come as no surprise that the sportsmen’s community is rallying around reauthorization of LWCF. But time is running out. Stay tuned for more information and how you can lend your voice.