Vermont’s forests, rivers, lakes, and mountains are vital to our quality of life and prosperity. For years, Vermont has been a national leader in conserving and protecting the outdoors. From community forests to the state’s outdoor recreation economy, Vermont continues to lead the nation in a healthy environment and great ways for people to get outside. The same is true when it comes to supporting full funding of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The nation’s most successful conservation program, LWCF has funded big and small parks, forest, and open space projects across the country for 55 years. This includes key parts of the Green Mountain National Forest, which is home to the Appalachian, Catamount, and Long trails. The LWCF has also provided funding that has helped to conserve some of our most iconic places like Camel’s Hump and Green River Reservoir State Park, and local playgrounds across the state. Notably, LWCF is not paid for by taxes, but rather comes from federal revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling.

åVermont’s treasured natural landscape of forests and fields, and the $5.5 billion recreation economy dependent on their protection, are not guaranteed. Currently, Vermont’s landscape is becoming increasingly fragmented, and undeveloped forestland is shrinking, affecting everything from public access to the economic viability of these lands to provide many goods and services. The risks to our forests and outdoor economy are further threatened as a result of the global climate crisis. LWCF funding will be critical for helping our state to address these challenges.

Recently, in a major success, Congress permanently reauthorized LWCF, but we still need to fight to ensure this critical program is åfully funded. Unfortunately, year after year, millions of dollars that are supposed to go to LWCF have been redirected to unrelated purposes.

All three members of Vermont’s congressional delegation have been long-standing champions of LWCF for the many benefits it provides to Vermonters and the nation. We are grateful that Sen. Patrick Leahy is now leading a push in the Senate for permanent full funding of LWCF, and Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch are doing their part as well. Right now a bill is before Congress to ensure permanent full funding for LWCF. In a very promising recent step, on Nov, 19, a Senate committee voted in a bipartisan fashion to send this bill to the full Senate; a House committee did the same in June. We urge Congress to follow the Vermont delegation’s leadership and vote to provide the funding needed to sustain our priceless parks, forests, playgrounds, and recreation sites.

The Vermont Forest Partnership, a coalition of groups committed to preventing forest fragmentation through public awareness about the risks, sound policy, and the conservation of important forestland. The partnership includes the Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, Vermont Land Trust, Audubon Vermont, Vermont Conservation Voters, and the Vermont Natural Resources Council.

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