June 22, 2020 In the News

U.S. Senate passes bill to make Land and Water Conservation Fund permanent

Union Leader
By Jonathan Phelps
June 22, 2020

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen visited the Greeley Park boat ramp in Nashua Monday morning to call for the House to approve the Great American Outdoors Act.

The bipartisan legislation cosponsored by Shaheen would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which in 2017 provided money for Nashua to rebuild and repair the previous boat ramp.

“Projects like this demonstrate why LWCF is so important,” Shaheen later wrote in a tweet.

The LWCF helps preserve and maintain critical lands for parks, forests, wildlife refuges and recreational areas in New Hampshire and across the country, according to a news release.

The Great American Outdoors Act would provide $900 million annually for the LWCF and $9.5 billion over the next five years for the maintenance and infrastructure needs at the country’s national parks and national forests, according to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

The U.S. House of Representatives still needs to approve and send the bill to President Donald Trump.

The Senate approved the act 73-25 last Wednesday.

The bipartisan legislation would help address the more than $43 million maintenance backlog in New Hampshire, including the White Mountain National Forest and Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

“This backlog is causing budgetary shortfalls and threatens the safety and long-term sustainability of these areas. I’m pleased by the bipartisan support that allowed the Great American Outdoors Act to clear the Senate. The House should follow suit swiftly and pass this bill,” said Shaheen in a statement.

“New Hampshire’s natural beauty helps define us as a state and drives our outdoor economy— and the Great American Outdoors Act will provide critical support to protect these natural resources for generations to come,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan in a statement.

The Granite State has received a total of $165.4 million in LWCF funds since the program started in 1964. The money has been used for major additions to the White Mountain and the establishment of the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge.

The White Mountain National Forest is in need of upgrades to its aging infrastructure, including trails and outdated visitor amenities, according to the society.

Forest Society President Jack Savage thanked Shaheen and Hassan for voting for the bill.

“Beyond the enormous natural resource protection and economic benefits, the Land and Water Conservation Fund highlights the willingness and ability of NH stakeholders-landowners, land trusts, state agencies and the federal government to work together in public/private partnerships,” Savage said in a statment. “The LWCF-funded Forest Legacy Program is a prime example of how these stakeholders have leveraged the LWCF in order to keep our working forests as forests and to preserve our cherished landscapes.”