Coalition Letter to the Senate Opposing the LWCF Title in S. 3422


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Dear Senators:

The undersigned organizations and individuals write to express and explain our opposition to legislation that would mandate massive increases in funding for federal and state land acquisition. We recognize that because the Great American Outdoors Act, S. 3422, enjoys overwhelming support from Democrats in the House and Senate, significant support from Republicans, and has been endorsed by President Trump, enactment may therefore be inevitable. However, we urge Senators to vote for amendments that will improve some of the bill’s more objectionable provisions.

The bill includes two titles. The first title, which this letter takes no position on, would address the multi-billion dollar maintenance backlog in National Parks and other federal lands by spending $9.5 billion of federal offshore energy revenues over five years on deferred maintenance projects.

The second title would turn the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) into a true trust fund not subject to congressional appropriation and mandate that $900 million from offshore oil and gas revenues be spent annually in perpetuity on land acquisition by the federal land agencies and on land acquisition and development of recreational facilities by state and local government.

Since enactment of the LWCF in 1965, Congress has appropriated $19 billion (unadjusted for inflation). The four federal land agencies have spent $11.4 billion to acquire over 5 million acres of private land, and state and local governments have acquired over 2.6 million acres. S. 3422 would roughly triple spending on land acquisition over average historic appropriation levels.

The fact is that the federal government already owns far too much land– approximately 640 million acres or 28% of total U. S. acreage. The federal government owns more than half the land in the eleven western states  and Alaska. More than 90% of the land in a number of counties is federally owned and more than 75% in many more counties.

The vast extent of the federal estate has severe negative environmental and economic consequences. As evidenced by the support for a $9.5 billion program to begin catching up with deferred maintenance, the federal government owns much more land than it can adequately manage and protect.

The economic impacts of federal land ownership across rural America are increasingly negative. Over the past six decades, more and more federal lands have been taken out of multiple use management, where natural resource production is allowed, and put into various preservation designations, where natural resource production is banned and recreational access is often restricted.

Federal lands also create huge economic burdens on local governments because they are exempt from property taxes. The Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program provides local governments with only a tiny fraction of lost property taxes. For example, a recent study shows that Utah’s 32 million acres of federal land would be subject to property taxes at lowest-use appraisal of more than $1 billion. PILT payments to Utah were $40 million in 2019.

S. 3422 would fund increasing the size of the federal estate annually in perpetuity, which can only exacerbate the negative stewardship and economic impacts. It will take private land out of productive use and off the property tax rolls in rural areas that can least afford it. And taxpayers will be forced to pay for maintaining these lands in perpetuity.

Moving annual appropriations at whatever level for land acquisition into a permanent trust fund is a bad idea. It is an abdication of Congress’s constitutional responsibility to make appropriations; it creates an entitlement for special interests that will be difficult to end; and it weakens Congress’s ability to reduce federal spending in the future when conditions may warrant lower spending.

If the Senate insists on passing S. 3422 despite these serious objections, then we urge Senators to approve several improving amendments. First, we suggest that the LWCF title should sunset in five years. This would make it consistent with the maintenance backlog title and makes sense because it would give Congress a chance to review the results of increased federal land acquisition before re- authorizing it.

Second, we suggest that all future land acquisition by the federal government should be contingent upon approval by the relevant state and local governments. More federal lands should not be foisted on unwilling local citizens who must live with the consequences. Instead, acquisitions should be confined to places where there is public support for more federal land.

Third and finally, we suggest that the use of eminent domain to acquire land should be prohibited. Federal land agencies have often used the threat of condemnation to turn unwilling sellers into willing sellers.

We urge you to support these and other amendments that would soften some of the worst impacts of this unfortunate legislation. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.




Myron Ebell

Director, Center for Energy and Environment Competitive Enterprise Institute


Brent Wm. Gardner

Chief Government Affairs Officer Americans for Prosperity


James L. Martin Founder/Chairman 60 Plus Association


Saulius “Saul” Anuzis President

60 Plus Association


Thomas Pyle President

American Energy Alliance


Norm Singleton President

Campaign for Liberty


Rick Manning President

Americans for Limited Government


Howard Hutchinson Executive Director

Coalition of Arizona/New Mexico Counties


Charlene Hogue President

Freedom and Land Rights Coalition


Ron Kliewer President

Public Lands for the People


Amy O. Cooke CEO

John Locke Foundation


Bette Grande CEO/President Roughrider Policy Center


David T. Stevenson Policy Director

Caesar Rodney Institute


James Edwards Executive Director

Conservatives for Property Rights


Tim Andrews Executive Director

Taxpayers Protection Alliance


Seton Motley President

Less Government


John Richardson President

Protect Americans Now


Gail Griffin

Arizona House of Representatives Property Owner, Cochise County


Mark Finchem

Chairman, House Federal Relations Committee Arizona House of Representatives


Jim Chilton Landowner

Chairman, Pima County AZ Natural Resource Conservation District


Sue Chilton

Former Commissioner, AZ Fish and Game Commission

and current Member of its Application Recommendation Board


Dan Eichenbaum, MD County Commissioner Cherokee County, NC


C.A. “Buck” Vandersteen Executive Director

Louisiana Forestry Association


Crad Jaynes President

SC Timber Producers Association Lexington, SC


Michael R. Wetzel Forester and Landowner Aiken County, SC


Bill Jensen President

Minerals and Mining Advisory Council


Joseph G. Reddan Consulting Forester La Plata County, CO


Mark Pollot, BSN, JD Property Rights Advocate Meridian, ID


Caren Cowan

Publisher, New Mexico Stockman and Livestock Market Digest Landowner, AZ


Fred Davis President

Cochise Graham Cattle Growers Association, AZ


Don L. (Bebo) Lee President

New Mexico Federal Lands Council


Carla Sontag President

New Mexico Business Coalition



Craig Ogden President

New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau


Carlos Salazar President

Northern New Mexico Stockmen


Stirling Spenser

Landowner and former County Commissioner Lincoln County, NM


Joe Bill & Lauren Nunn Landowners and Ranchers Luna County, NM


Carl L. Johnson Landowner and Rancher Lea County, NM


Murray and Judy Keeler

Landowners and Property Rights Activists Hidalgo County, NM


Mike Casaboone

Landowner and Sheep and Cattle Rancher Eddy County, NM


John & Megan Richardson Slash Ranch

Sierra & Catron Counties, NM


Bebo, Madyln, Colton & Dalton Lee Hat Ranch

Otero County, NM


The Bidegain Family T4 Cattle Company Quay County, NM


Eric Carleson Executive Director

Associated California Loggers



Bill Dennison Former Supervisor Plumas County, CA


Joe Martori

Land and Mine Owner, CA Government Liaison

Minerals and Mining Advisory Council


Mary Adams

Chair, Maine Center-Right Coalition Meeting


Stuart Kallgren President

Maine Woods Coalition


Erich Veyhl

Property Rights Activist Washington County, ME


Ed Bowen

Victim of LWCF intimidation Olympic National Park Inholder, WA




Contact: Myron Ebell, [email protected], (202) 320-6685.