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News: Features & Opinions Archive (2015)

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Date: December 2015

Land and Water Conservation Fund Expires

by John Litz

Congress allowed the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to expire Oct. 1. With it could go thousands of projects nurtured along by people who had hoped that the chaos of a political party in a high fever would not reach into their favorite places. But it has. Neighborhood playgrounds, walking trails bordering bustling cities, national parks, beaches, bridges, bike paths and birding sites are all imperiled by a handful of Congresspersons. For a half century, everything including the hugely popular Appalachian Trail and the memorial in Pennsylvania where Flight 93 went down Sept. 11, 2001, has relied on money from this fund, generated by revenues from oil and gas leases.

Representative Rob Bishop of Utah, R, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee is the primary impediment. He clearly doesn't like public land or parks. If Bishop would only get out of the way and let renewal of this popular fund come up for a full vote, it would pass with bipartisan support, as evidenced by commitment letters from members of both parties. The fund was last renewed 25 years ago, and sailed through with nary a complaint. This money has helped to protect places in all 50 states and 98 percent of American counties. Bishop has complained that the money is a “slush fund,” misused by those who want to help expand the public land footprint.

Land and Water Conservation Fund Expires More than 40 percent of the National Parks contain privately owned inholdings. The LWCF is the main source of funds used to acquire these inholdings. The Fund has been used to acquire more than 7,000 acres in Zion National Park and about 5,000 acres in Dinosaur National Monument.

Much of the fund has been spent assisting in providing conservation easements on private lands. It has been used by many states, counties, cities, and districts as a source of matching funds for park, trail and similar projects. In Jefferson County the LWCF provided Open Space with part of the funding for the acquisition of Clement Park.

From 2011 through 2014, 29,200 acres were conserved in Colorado with the help of LWCF dollars. The total spent on all of the projects within the state was $26,300,000.

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