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LWCF, The Vital Program Which Provided $336M To Preserve & Protect Public Lands Like The Women’s Rights National Historical Park, The Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, And Historic Sites Across NY Like Seneca Falls, Expired Last Year For Only The Second Time In Its Over 50-Year History

Last Week, The Senate Permanently Reauthorized The LWCF In 2019 Lands Package; Schumer Calls On Colleagues In House To Pass Senate Version Of Lands Package ASAP

Schumer To House: Pass Lands Package To Protect Upstate Treasures Like Women’s Rights National Historical Park & Montezuma Refuge For Generations To Come 

Standing at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, NY, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on his colleagues to immediately reauthorize and fully fund The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which supports major Finger Lakes tourism attractions like Seneca Falls’ Women’s Rights National Historical Park and the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. Schumer said the LWCF provides critical funding that protects natural areas, water resources, and historical sites across the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, but expired last October threatening future planned projects. In addition, Schumer said jeopardizing these critical funds threatens both conservation and recreation projects that help support the outdoor recreation economy in communities across the Finger Lakes. Schumer said this program has supported important conservation projects in Seneca County, including two of the County’s top-ranked tourist destinations: the Women’s Rights National Historical Park and the National Montezuma Wildlife Refuge. Schumer revealed that after his push, the Senate last week permanently reauthorized the LWCF in the 2019 Lands Package by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 92-8, and today urged his colleagues in the House of Representatives to take up and pass the Senate version of the Lands Package as soon as possible. Additionally, Schumer urged his colleagues in Congress to fully fund the LWCF in upcoming appropriations bills.

“For more than five decades, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided millions in federal funding for dozens of parks and tourism sites in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region like Seneca Falls’ Women’s Rights National Historical Park and the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.  In the process, it has contributed to preserving hundreds of acres of parks, generating billions in economic activity, and helping create over 300,000 jobs in the outdoor economy of New York State. That’s why it is completely unacceptable that Congress allowed the authorization for this critical program to lapse,” said Senator Schumer. “I am urging my colleagues in the House to permanently reauthorize this program, as the Senate did last week, while also calling on all of Congress to fully fund this program in upcoming years, so residents and visitors alike can continue to enjoy sites like the Women’s Rights National Historical Park and the Montezuma Refuge across New York and the nation for years to come.”

Schumer explained that the LWCF protects public lands for conservation and recreation, helps state and local communities build parks and recreation facilities, and invests in voluntary conservation on private lands. It has been used to fund projects in every single county in the U.S., including many across New York State. In fact, LWCF was critical in providing $500,000 to construct the Montezuma Audubon Center facility.  It is a key addition to accommodate tourists at the refuge and includes space to house a large exhibit area, classroom, nature store, office area, auditorium, and a meeting room. Plus, nearly 900 of the refuge’s current acreage was acquired thanks to LWCF funding. Similarly, LWCF funding has been instrumental in the creation of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. LWCF funding allowed the Park to acquire the Wesleyan Chapel, where in 1848 the historic women’s rights convention was held. LWCF funding also enabled the acquisition of other historic properties that are now part of the National Park including the Hunt House, where Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others planned the convention. Moreover, in the Rochester Finger Lakes region alone, more than $11 million in LWCF funding has funded hundreds of construction, land acquisition, and preservation projects such as the construction of the Sampson State Park Waterfront Playground. 

Because the LWCF boosts tourism and gives Americans across the country an opportunity to enjoy outdoor recreation, Schumer said it is unacceptable that Congress let this critical program expire, for only the second time in its more than 50-year history, on September 30 of last year. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation projects and sites annually generate approximately $41.8 billion in consumer spending and provide 313,000 jobs throughout New York State alone. Schumer said that, for decades, the LWCF has provided millions of dollars for Upstate New York projects, which has helped fuel the state’s vibrant recreational- and tourism-based economy.

Schumer said this failure of Congress to reauthorize the LWCF is leaving many planned future projects in jeopardy.  For example, Montezuma NWR has identified over 900 acres of land adjacent to the Refuge that it now needs LWCF funding to acquire. These LWCF funds would be used to purchase either conservation easements on these lands or to purchase the lands outright. Schumer explained in this way, the LWCF is a win-win by supporting both current local property owners looking to sell their land and the refuge’s mission to preserve public lands for future generations. In addition to contributing to the economy, the LWCF is critical to providing hunters, anglers and hikers throughout Upstate New York with better access to lands and recreation areas that are permitted for sportsmanship activities.

Schumer said the expiration of the LWCF program also has real consequences for the economy. For more than 50 years, the LWCF has provided $3.9 billion to states for over 40,000 local projects. New York State, in particular, has received nearly $336 million throughout the history of the LWCF. As a result, Schumer said given the tremendous economic output and jobs created by the LWCF over the years, Congress should permanently reauthorize this program without further delay. The LWCF’s role in supporting current recreational sites and creating new projects has been threatened since it was not reauthorized by Congress. Therefore, Schumer is urging his colleagues in Congress to reauthorize the LWCF immediately before local recreational projects and facilities are put at risk. In addition, acquisitions and conservation land donations are voluntary or completed with only willing sellers. 

Schumer was joined by Chuck Gibson, President of the Friends of The Montezuma Wetlands, Andrew Zepp, Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Land Trust, Martha Robertson, member of the Friends of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, Seneca County Board of Supervisors Member Paul Kronenwetter, and local officials.

“We’re grateful to Senator Schumer for his leadership on the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” says Andrew Zepp, Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Land Trust. “Here in the Finger Lakes, we’re utilizing support from this Fund to add key parcels to New York’s only national forest.  These acquisitions expand opportunities for outdoor recreation while also helping to protect the watersheds of both Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake.”

Chuck Gibson President of the Friends of The Montezuma Wetlands said, “The Land and Water Conservation Fund is vital to support the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.  LWCF has provided millions to build new facilities like the Montezuma Audubon Center and to add nearly 900 acres to the refuge in order to advance its mission to conserve land, wildlife habitat, and improve the visitor experience to attract tourists to our region.  With the Montezuma NWR’s plans to tap LWCF funds in the future to complete their planned acquisition of over 900 additional acres or conservations easements on adjoining lands, we appreciate Senator Schumer’s efforts to reinstate the LWCF program permanently.”