Conservation worth funding

Among the most important federal programs very few people have heard of is the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Ensuring it has enough money is the proverbial no-brainer.

Doing so will require action by Congress and approval by President Donald Trump, however. Lawmakers and the president should be urged — not just encouraged — to make it happen.

As we have explained previously, the LWCF doesn’t come from taxes; rather, it uses some of the royalty revenue that flows to the government from offshore oil and gas drilling — although it almost never receives as much as authorized under the law.

As its name suggests, it is important in preserving significant lands and bodies of water throughout our country. More than 2.37 million acres have been protected by the LWCF.

On top of that, money from the LWCF goes to many local recreational needs, ranging from parks to public swimming pools. Many local government entities in our area have benefited. Here in the Tri-Lakes area, it has been used to upgrade Whiteface Mountain and Mount Van Hoevenberg ahead of the 1980 Olympics, and also to build campgrounds, develop the Visitor Interpretive Centers and establish playgrounds, beaches, ice rinks and ski trails.

Every county in the United States has received LWCF money, through more than 40,000 grants since 1965.

Yet despite the LWCF’s critical importance, there was some doubt earlier this year that it would continue to exist. Thankfully, that doubt was erased in a bill that Congress passed in February and the president signed into law in March.

But now the question of ensuring the program is funded has come up. A bill sponsored by U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, would resolve that. The measure, S.1081, would guarantee the agency is authorized for $900 million annually.

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers are co-sponsoring this bill. The Senate and the House of Representatives should approve it as soon as possible, then sent to the president for his signature.

COMMENTS