Coconino Voices: Land and Water Conservation Fund needs full funding

September 18, 2019
Contributed Columns
For the Arizona Daily Sun

Coconino Voices: Land and Water Conservation Fund needs full funding

Arizonans take tremendous pride in our connection with nature. For us, places like the Coconino National Forest and Grand Canyon National Park are more than just landmarks; they are part of our Arizonan identity.

Honoring that identity means preserving our public lands. For more than five decades, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has allowed communities throughout Arizona to protect our nation’s natural treasures, wildlife habitats, waterways, and the rich cultural heritage of Native Americans.

There is nothing more important than the protection of our most precious public lands and parks. It’s up to us to make sure that our local parks receive maintenance, that our wildlife is protected, and that current and future generations are able to embrace Arizona’s natural beauty.

None of this is achievable if Congress does not fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and protect it so that the money is not unfairly diverted to projects outside of the LWCF.

Arizona Congressional District 1 has received an estimated $9.7 million from the LWCF in the past years. The LWCF helps keep Grand Canyon National Park operating and protected, as well as the Coconino National Forest. Funding from the LWCF ensures that residents from Coconino and Pinal County are able to revel in Arizona’s natural beauty, and it’s because of LWCF that we are able to attract millions of tourists to the area every year.

Without full funding from the LWCF, it's not just wildlife that will suffer - it's also local residents who depend on the tourism economy and who treasure Arizona's natural spaces. Our public lands generate $5.7 billion in wages and $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue across the state.

I support H.R. 3195, which will fully fund the LWCF and ensure that 100% of the funds are entirely directed to conserve our public lands, and I’m calling on my colleagues to ensure that it gets a fair hearing as soon as possible. With so much at stake here in Arizona and across the nation, it’s unacceptable for Congress to play politics with this issue.

It’s past time to come together to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and preserve the natural beauty and heritage we all enjoy.

Tom O'Halleran is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Arizona's 1st Congressional District.