Democrats, Sportsmen Organizations Hold Major Roundtable on the Future of Public Lands Conservation, Fate of Land and Water Fund

Washington, D.C. – As part of Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva’s ongoing efforts to diversify the environmental movement and establish new conservation alliances, Democratic House Natural Resources Committee lawmakers and members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus held a major roundtable yesterday with national hunting, fishing, wildlife and conservation organizations to discuss potential collaboration on public lands issues, habitat protection, wildlife conservation and access to public lands and waterways.

The event – the fourth in a continuing series of roundtables Grijalva is convening to broaden support for conservation and environmental justice issues – featured a discussion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Reauthorization Act, a Grijalva bill to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and prevent its September expiration.

Despite widespread sportsmen backing for the LWCF’s dual missions of establishing new federal conservation areas and providing state-level conservation grants, Committee Chairman Rob Bishop has said he does not support the Fund in its current form. In a recent op-ed in Parks and Recreation, Bishop claimed erroneously that federal management of the Fund led to the death of a hiker in Utah in 2008. Bishop has stated his intention to “transfer” federal land to state and county control so that it can be sold – a move with no basis in the Constitution or federal land management laws.

“Sportsmen and anglers know better than most of us that a clean, healthy environment is good for our country,” Grijalva said. “Expanding the coalition to protect our public lands and waters is one of my top priorities as ranking member, and I’m glad to be working with so many allies. We need all hands on deck to block the unpopular schemes we’re seeing from the Republican side to give our public lands away to well-connected private interests. If they go through, outdoorsmen lose as much as anyone, and I’m glad to join these groups in this conversation.”

“We have a responsibility to ensure federal lands remain open and available to everyone,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Federal Lands. “The roundtable sparked a valuable discussion about shared conservation and wildlife preservation interests, and how potential collaboration can further these endeavors. The conversation highlighted the critical role of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which for over 50 years has used revenues from offshore oil and gas lease sales to preserve land and water resources, promote recreation and conserve open space for future generations in the face of development and urbanism. I thank Ranking Member Grijalva, my House colleagues and all those joining us at the roundtable for their continued engagement on these important issues and for their leadership in promoting environmental stewardship,”

“Our public lands are a national treasure,” said Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. “Not only do they help preserve some of our most pristine and beautiful places for future generations to enjoy, they are also economic engines. In fact, hunting and angling activities on public lands contribute $90 billion to the economy and support 1.5 million jobs. One of our top priorities in the committee this year is the reauthorization and full, permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and we all must work together to accomplish this critical goal,”

“As someone who grew up in a rural community in Northern California and has hunted and fished all of my life, I know the importance of a healthy environment to sportsmen and women,” said Congressman Mike Thompson, two-term chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. “That’s in part why I have worked my entire career to protect our public lands, and I thank Congressman Grijalva for bringing us to the table to discuss these important issues.”

“I believe our public lands should be protected so that sportsmen can enjoy them for generations to come,” said Congressman Bennie G. Thompson of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. “I look forward to working with Ranking Member Grijalva to continue conservation efforts and preserve our public lands.”

The forum was attended by the American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League, National Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited.

Approximately 40 million Americans hunt and fish every year. Together, hunters and anglers spend close to $90 billion each year, contributing greatly to our nation’s economy and supporting 1.5 million jobs. The broader outdoor recreation and conservation economy is responsible for approximately $650 billion in consumer spending every year.