National Wildlife Federation officials are urging House Speaker Paul Ryan to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund after a poll in the 1st District showed overwhelming support for it.
Seventy-one percent of poll respondents said they want to renew the program, which expired in September after Congress failed to reauthorize it.
The program is responsible for funding local and state parks, wildlife and fishery conservation and public land preservation.
Congress now must reauthorize the program to appropriate funds for state and local grants aimed at improving parks and outdoors spaces. It's unclear if Ryan, who represents the 1st District until he retires in January, will support a bill before Congress adjourns in a few weeks.
Mike Saccone, a National Wildlife Federation spokesman, said two separate bills already have passed House and Senate committees. A floor vote hasn't happened yet because the chambers can’t agree on the measures, he said.
“At this point, it’s going to be Speaker of the House Paul Ryan who is either going to give this popular idea—and common sense idea—an up or down vote,” Saccone said. “This program and the simple idea of reauthorizing it and fully funding it are overwhelmingly popular.”
Ryan’s staffers did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
In a Sept. 28 tweet, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Madison Democrat, urged Ryan to take up a reauthorization measure before the program expired.
“Wisconsin is known for our beautiful lakes and outdoor spaces—all protected by the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Pocan wrote. “The #LWCF ensures that these incredible public lands remain part of our economy and our culture. @SpeakerRyan, please bring up a vote to #SaveLWCF!”
George Meyer, the federation's executive director, said Wisconsin has received more than $230 million from the fund, which has helped maintain more than 600 state and local parks, trails and outdoor spaces since its inception in 1965.
Meyer said the federation is hopeful Congress will pass a reauthorization measure this session. Waiting until next year would mean reintroducing bills and starting the process from scratch with a new Congress, he said.
“We’re optimists," Meyer said. "Obviously, there's going to be a lot of other issues taken up by the new House. Starting over could mean a significant amount of time."
Other results from the poll, which was commissioned by the federation and conducted Nov. 26-27, showed that 39 percent of voters in the 1st District would feel more favorably about Ryan if he reauthorized the fund. Forty-seven percent of voters said they would feel less favorably if Ryan reauthorized the fund but didn't fully fund it.
Meyer said the fund is paid for with revenue from oil and gas production offshore and on public lands. It does not use taxpayer money, he said.