We can’t lose our momentum on LWCF

Ashley Beyer is an Artemis sportswoman and New Mexico resident. She was invited by the National Wildlife Federation to join the LWCF Coalition on a trip to D.C. in mid-September to talk to our elected representatives about the importance of LWCF. Here Ashley tells us about her D.C. experience and reminds us to stay involved in the effort for full funding and permanent reauthorization. Thank you, Ashley, for taking action to save something so important to us all!

By Ashley Beyer, Artemis Sportswoman

I have always found solace looking up at the open sky, night or day. When I was a little girl it filled me with hope. I would lay on the ground and block out the chaos, hunger, sadness, and fear. My childhood was anything but ideal or picturesque. One thing I always had was the great outdoors. It was my home. Even from a young age I valued our public lands. It didn’t matter if I was sitting on the top of a mountain, on the edge of a stream, or in a valley, I always had the feeling that this was all part of some bigger picture. If I was even just a small part of that picture, I would be happy. These lands raised me. They comforted me. I would not be the person I am today without these lands.

As an adult, I feel even more respect and love for these lands. I am deeply rooted and emotionally invested in the protection of public lands and water. I am thankful for The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF has not only funded areas of my favorite hunting grounds, but it also funded the parks and recreational fields that many community events rely on. It is America’s most important outdoor recreation and conservation program. The quality of life in our communities has improved due to many projects that were funded by LWCF. The best part, it’s not tax payer funded. The money comes from offshore oil royalties, which are paid to the federal government.

I felt the need to be out there doing something to advocate for LWCF right from the start. This is a program that works, and it works well. It doesn’t cost taxpayers, or the government. Reauthorizing and fully funding this program should be a common sense no brainer. Yet for some reason, here we are, advocating with everything we have, to protect something that every member of Congress should easily support. When the call came asking if I was willing to fly to Washington D.C. to advocate for the LWCF, I didn’t hesitate. If you are not already aware, there is an entire coalition of people fighting this fight. When I arrived in Washington D.C. I was empowered by other advocates who showed up from across the country with the same goal in mind. Listening to their stories only strengthened my dedication.

I was able to meet with all but one of New Mexico’s elected offices. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall have been vocal supporters of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. I was excited to be in their offices, largely to thank them for their support. The meetings with Representatives Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce were equally important and productive. I believe New Mexico has great champions for our public lands in Washington D.C.

In a turn of events, on the morning of my visit, the House Natural Resources Committee passed a bill to permanently reauthorize LWCF. Up until this point, partisanship in the Natural Resources Committee had been holding up progress on LWCF legislation. This was a crucial and positive step towards saving our most important outdoor and urban recreation program. This bill still needs to  pass the House, Senate, and be signed by the President.

Unfortunately, the Land and Water Conservation Fund was allowed to expire on September 30th. What is extremely important at this point is to remind our Congressional officials how strongly we need their support and leadership to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It is our job to fight for our future generations. This is a program that truly benefits all. I am confidently willing to argue, that there is not one American who hasn’t reaped the rewards.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund may have expired, but we have created remarkable momentum. I am confident that we are going to win the day before this Congress adjourns in December. We all have a responsibility to do our part to make sure that is the outcome.