Congress Let Land & Water Conservation Fund Expire
By JEREMY ROMERO
Wildlife Corridor Coordinator
National Wildlife Federation
Valles Caldera is the largest land acquisition in New Mexico made through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), one of the primary tools for protecting our national and local parks and public lands. LWCF contributed over $100 million to acquire the Preserve, help promote recreational opportunities and public access, and conserve habitat for wildlife including elk, mule deer, and mountain lions. And LWCF accomplishes things like this all over America at no cost to taxpayers. LWCF is completely funded from offshore oil and gas drilling royalties.
But on September 30, the sun set on the greatest conservation program this country has ever known, because Congress failed to reauthorize this wildly successful fund after 53 years of providing Americans with access to some of the best outdoor pleasures on public lands.
The Fund is so important to New Mexico that it is the subject of a website of which Valles Caldera is part. www.SaveLWCFNewMexico.com features 15 great places in all corners of the state and shows how LWCF benefits New Mexicans every day.
I love Valles Caldera. I hunt, fish or hike its hills and meadows nearly every weekend. LWCF has helped to preserve its vast landscape and allows me and many other people to recreate here. It also protects the tribal and historical use of sacred sites scattered throughout the 90,000 acres of lush volcanic grasslands, mountain streams and plentiful wildlife.
To know that the Caldera is protected and belongs to all of us is an indescribable feeling that would not be possible if LWCF was not available to enable its purchase. Without hesitation, we must tell our Congressional representatives – U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, along with Representatives Ben Ray Lujan, Steve Pearce and Michelle Lujan Grisham – that this source of money that turns into such beautiful outdoor experiences must remain available so that future generations may continue to enjoy its gifts as we do.