Outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes have undoubtedly seen the headlines over the past few months about the threats to Washington’s elk population. Now more than ever, we need to protect the places these creatures call home. And we can with help from a little-known federal grant program that ensures wildlife have habitat and hunters have access to quality lands.
Funded through a small percentage of offshore energy royalties, not taxpayer dollars, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has protected outdoor recreation opportunities for 50 years. Unfortunately, funds have continually been diverted for unrelated spending, leaving communities in the lurch and top-priority conservation and recreation projects on hold.
This year, LWCF requests include expanding protection around Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge, which provides essential elk and waterfowl habitat while increasing access to outdoor recreation. Preserving wildlife habitat ensures future generations will continue to see healthy wildlife populations, protects our drinking water and provides space for us to connect with our natural heritage.
The LWCF will sunset next year without congressional action. Thankfully, Senators Murray and Cantwell have prioritized this critical program by cosponsoring a bill to renew and fully fund the program.
As a hunter and member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, LWCF has a history of protecting valuable habitat in Washington, but we still have a long way to go to fulfill our responsibility to preserve our great outdoors for our kids and grandkids. I hope our leaders in Congress will honor that responsibility by funding this immensely successful program.