The Land and Water Conservation Fund is Critical to American Innovation

Morning Consult
By Nancy Pfund
April 19, 2018

While mem­bers of the House Energy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee were hear­ing tes­ti­mony from Face­book Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer Mark Zucker­berg, one floor away, a less high-​​profile but nonethe­less equally impor­tant hear­ing was under­way that will also impact Amer­i­can inno­va­tion and busi­ness growth.

Inte­rior Depart­ment Sec­re­tary Ryan Zinke was tes­ti­fy­ing before the House Inte­rior Appro­pri­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee to defend his agency’s bud­get pro­posal to Con­gress for the next fis­cal year. While most of the tes­ti­mony and ques­tions from law­mak­ers on the panel focused on issues like exces­sive spend­ing on travel and office equip­ment, less atten­tion was paid to a press­ing issue: With­out action in Con­gress and approval from the pres­i­dent, the Land and Water Con­ser­va­tion Fund will expire in September.

Since it was cre­ated in 1964, the LWCF has been uti­lized by Repub­li­can and Demo­c­ra­tic admin­is­tra­tions alike to safe­guard nat­ural areas, water resources and our cul­tural her­itage, and to pro­vide access to recre­ation oppor­tu­ni­ties for all Amer­i­cans. Every year, $900 mil­lion in roy­al­ties paid by energy com­pa­nies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Con­ti­nen­tal Shelf is autho­rized to be put into the LWCF. In turn, these LWCF funds help cre­ate, pro­tect and sup­port national parks like the Grand Canyon, Bears Ears, national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers and lakes, com­mu­nity parks, trails and ball­fields in every one of our 50 states.

Allow­ing the LWCF to expire would threaten Amer­i­cans’ access to and the integrity of our pub­lic lands and waters. It would also deal a par­tic­u­larly large blow to our econ­omy. The LWCF is not only crit­i­cal to so much of the recre­ation we all make part of our lives, it is actu­ally a key dri­ver to job growth, as well. The LWCF is essen­tial to the cre­ation and main­te­nance of out­door recre­ational oppor­tu­ni­ties that help us to recruit the best and bright­est employ­ees who sup­port the cul­ture of our com­pa­nies — whether that be out­door team-​​building, employee fam­ily gath­er­ings or other com­pany activities.

When ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists like myself ana­lyze an invest­ment oppor­tu­nity, or fast-​​growing com­pany exec­u­tives are search­ing for a place to locate their next facil­ity, the prob­a­bil­ity that the com­pany will be able to recruit top-​​quality employ­ees to help the com­pany grow is cen­tral to their deci­sions. And access to first-​​class out­door recre­ational oppor­tu­ni­ties is extremely impor­tant to these tar­get employees.

More­over, out­door recre­ation helps inspire, recharge and refo­cus the peo­ple who already drive suc­cess in our com­pa­nies. These out­door oppor­tu­ni­ties – even in a com­mu­nity park or local ball­field – fuel team­work and inno­va­tion. But you don’t have to take my word for it: A national sur­vey of over 4,000 employ­ees of fast-​​growing com­pa­nies recently pub­lished by The Muse found that nearly 70 per­cent said that these oppor­tu­ni­ties were either impor­tant, very impor­tant or extremely impor­tant to their lives out­side the office. Even more strik­ing, 25 per­cent said it was impor­tant in mak­ing their deci­sion to accept their cur­rent job.

So, while mem­bers of Con­gress are right to focus their atten­tion on the ways in which inno­v­a­tive com­pa­nies have changed the way we con­sume infor­ma­tion, let us not lose sight of the fact that Face­book and other lead­ing com­pa­nies in this coun­try uti­lize our trea­sured pub­lic lands as a dynamic tool in recruit­ing and retain­ing the tal­ent nec­es­sary to help them flourish.

Reau­tho­riza­tion and full fund­ing for the Land and Water Con­ser­va­tion Fund are crit­i­cal to the expan­sion of recre­ational oppor­tu­ni­ties so impor­tant to the growth and cul­ture of entre­pre­neur­ial, job-​​creating com­pa­nies in our coun­try. I urge Con­gres­sional lead­ers, in the strongest pos­si­ble terms, to work together to ensure that leg­is­la­tion reau­tho­riz­ing this vital pro­gram is passed.

Nancy Pfund is a co-​​chair of the Con­ser­va­tion for Eco­nomic Growth Coali­tion, an advo­cacy group made up of founders of fast-​​growing entre­pre­neur­ial com­pa­nies and ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists, and she is the founder and man­ag­ing part­ner of DBL Investors, a ven­ture cap­i­tal firm located in San Francisco.

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