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.

Morn­ing Con­sult wel­comes op-ed sub­mis­sions on pol­i­cy, pol­i­tics and busi­ness strat­e­gy in our cov­er­age areas. Updat­ed sub­mis­sion guide­lines can be found here.