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Maine lawmaker stands with veterans to protect America's Lands

Op-ed: State Rep. Robert Alley stands with veterans who are lawmakers to protect Maine, and America's public lands - from Maine Insights

As Veterans, who are Lawmakers we Stand United to protect America's Lands

Op-ed by Rep. Robert Alley, a Democrat, who represents House District 138. He serves on the Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Marine Resources Committees.

From lobster fishing to hunting game in our wilderness, we know our way of life depends upon the health of our ecosystems. I’m proud to serve on the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Marine Resources Committees, where I fight to ensure we sustain our natural assets, as I did with recent law giving elver fishermen more flexibility while sustaining the resource. Certain fishery laws need updating and I’m working in Augusta on those issues.

As a former lobsterman I know how valuable the health of our coast is to the livelihoods of thousands of Mainers. The only way to achieve results is to work with others and that’s why I reach across the aisle to get things done for the good of all our citizens.

Protecting our coast is protecting our cultural heritage, and a way of life we can’t afford to lose. With temperatures on the rise our fishing industries are at risk. Scientists have found that our lobsters are slowly moving north because of the increase in the ocean’s temperature. Ocean acidification damages lobsters and hard shell delicacies, degrading their shells. But instead of protecting our natural resources, Secretary Zinke wants to drill of oil off our coast. 

If we don’t stand behind our natural resources, we risk losing them forever. That’s why I recently signed a letter with 79 other lawmakers who are veterans, in support of the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Since its establishment by Congress in 1964, the LWCF has been a bipartisan commitment that safeguards our natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage.

In order for us to protect our natural resources we all must work together. Veterans don’t distinguish each other by what political party we are affiliated with, we all stand by and with our Constitution. That’s why I’m proud to stand with my brothers and sisters, who are lawmakers, in support of the LWCF.

All American’s need clean air and water.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided both recreational opportunities to all Americans and has been a source of revenue for states and local governments. Many local projects have received LWCF funding.

Over the past 40-plus years, the LWCF program has provided more than $3.9 billion in grants funding projects in just about every county in the country.

In Washington County over $175,000 was granted  for the St. Croix Acquisition. Baileyville Municipal Park, the Quoddy Head Expansion, and the Gleason Point Boat Access all happened with LWCF grants. The list goes on and on. Over $27 million has been invested in Maine in all counties and the unorganized territories since 1968. Over $8.5 million has been granted to the state since 2002 alone. You’ve probably been to a park, nature reserve, beauty spot or veterans’ memorial that has been funded with LWCF grants. We enjoy kayaking, canoeing, swimming, picnicking, and just being able to relax in our parks, supported by LWCF funds.

A Bureau of Economic Analysis study found that the outdoor recreation contributes $887 billion and supports 7.6 million jobs across America. Every $1 of LWCF funds invested results in a return of $4 in economic value.

On the national stage generations of Americans have visited National parks. For many, these trips are annual pilgrimages connecting families with our country’s roots while creating lasting memories. Our land is intrinsic to who we are as a people.

Our 47,000-acre Acadia National Park with unsurpassed woodlands, rocky beaches and glacier-scoured granite peaks needs constant upkeep. LWCF supports all our National Parks and Monuments.

The LWCF is one of our most successful conservation programs because it draws on funds from offshore oil and gas royalties, not taxpayers, to expand, develop, and improve public lands for recreational areas, conservation, and the preservation of natural ecosystems. 

But now the LCWF is in jeopardy of not being reauthorized.

The bill supporting the LWCF was stalled in committee for over a year, being used as a political football. In September, a week after fellow EOPA veterans who are serving lawmakers visited Washington D.C. - where they called on seven U.S. Senators to educate them about the effort - the bill finally made it out of that committee. However, it still needs to be voted on. That's why we are urging Speaker Ryan to bring it to the floor for a vote.

LWCF needs reauthorization by Congress - now.

Our national parks, national forests, monuments, wildlife refuges and state projects are in jeopardy of being lost. We believe a strong showing of bipartisan support from state lawmakers, who are also veterans, can help Interior Secretary Zinke to support for reauthorization of the LWCF and thereby that of Congress.

My military brothers and sisters have banded together as lawmakers to stand with our country defending our public lands. I see my son fishing off our coast, making a modest honest living, following in a family tradition. His future, and that of all Mainers are at risk if we don't protect our natural world. Lend your voice to a cause for all our futures.

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Efforts to Reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund Continue

During the last week of Federal Fiscal Year 2018, Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to fund the work of the government agencies through December 7th. 

The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a markup for Tuesday, October 2nd — the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System and the Wild and Scenic Rivers System — on bills to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and provide funding for the Parks maintenance backlog. S. 569, sponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Richard Burr (R-NC) with 47 co-sponsors, permanently reauthorizes LWCF at $900 million and requires that that full amount be appropriated each year to acquire critical lands for conservation and recreation. S. 3172, sponsored by Senate Rob Portman (R-OH) with 30 co-sponsors, establishes the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund and provides $1.3 billion annually to address the infrastructure maintenance needs in the National Park System.

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Conservation fund should be reauthorized

Conservation fund should be reauthorized

By Rep. Debra Sariñana / Albuquerque Democrat
Sunday, September 23rd, 2018 at 12:02am

I’ve lived in or around Albuquerque most of my life. I grew up here, raised my children here, and as the state representative for House District 21, I’ve seen my wonderful quirky city from every angle. Still, I’ll never forget the first time I saw it, from the top of the Sandia Mountains.

I was 9 years old and a member of Girl Scout Troop No. 570. Our troop and chaperones set out early one weekend to hike the La Luz Trail to the highest point of the Sandia Mountains. It was the first time hiking for most of us, and we were enchanted by the ponderosa pines, excited – and a little scared – by the rocky, winding path, and surprised by the old twisted juniper jutting out of the middle of the trail. Most of all, we were awestruck the first time we saw Albuquerque from the top of the mountain.

My memories of that weekend are similar to the memories of thousands of New Mexico residents lucky enough to have experienced public lands, many of which are protected by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The Sandia Foothills are just one of 84 LWCF grant projects in Bernalillo County alone, but the fund doesn’t just protect the grand open spaces outside the city.

The LWCF, since its inception, has funded playgrounds, pools and city parks across the nation. Phil Chacon Park, one of my favorites in my own district, was made possible with financial backing from the LWCF.

But here’s what I want my fellow New Mexicans to know: Without action from Congress, the LWCF will expire, threatening public lands and future projects across New Mexico and the United States.

I was a Girl Scout the first time I ascended the Sandia Crest. I didn’t know anything about the politics behind land conservation, but I knew that as a citizen of our nation and a witness to the beauty and grandeur of the American Southwest I had a responsibility to protect the lands around me.

Now, as an Air Force veteran, I view those same public lands as sources of peace, connection and healing. Specifically, a number of my fellow veterans and friends have used the protected lands in Taos to reconnect to their families and their nation through programs run by the Not Forgotten Outreach Military Family Respite Center. The center is a place for military families to come together and help each other reintegrate into society. It provides an outdoor rehabilitative retreat, using eco-therapy to promote peer connection, challenging outdoor experiences and healing with other veterans.

Our public lands serve as a place where families can go to camp, fish, swim, sail, hunt and enjoy the outdoors. As a veteran and the mother of a son who has served in Afghanistan, the calm and tranquil lakes and wilderness have served as a healing place. We are a state of very little means so being able to enjoy our public lands for free or very little cost helps many enjoy all of what our state has to offer.

If a Girl Scout could understand her responsibility to preserve the natural wonder of public lands, surely Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke can feel that same moral and professional obligation. That’s why I recently signed a letter, alongside more than 70 lawmakers, also veterans of military service from both sides of the aisle, to call on Zinke to support reauthorizing and funding the LWCF before it expires at the end of this month.

As a child I helped protect the land by picking up the trash along a favorite trail. As an elected official, I stand with my fellow veterans demanding Zinke tell Congress how vital the LWCF is to veterans, the people of New Mexico and citizens across the country. I stand with the representatives from both parties in supporting H.R. 502, a bill that would permanently reauthorize LWCF.

Our iconic lands, sacred in our collective memory, are threatened if LWCF is allowed to expire on Sept. 30. I call on you to add your voices to the chorus demanding that House Speaker Paul Ryan move to vote on H.R. 502, for our veterans, our citizens and our children. Our memories should not be the last made in the wonder and the serenity of public lands.

Rep. Debra Sariñana is an educator and military veteran with deep ties to House District 21. She grew up, raised her family, and now teaches in the district.

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EOPA Veterans fight for permanent Land and Water Conservation Funds

EOPA Veterans, who are elected officials, tell Congress make funding for Land Water Conservation permanent

Article and still photos by Ramona du Houx in Maine Insights

Veterans who are also lawmakers traveled to D.C. to urge Sec. Zinke to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which brings millions to each state every year for the upkeep of our parks and other public lands.

"We are committed to preserving and protecting America’s public lands — by doing so we are continuing our mission to preserve and protect our nation," said Former Maine State Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx, who served in the Marines in Iraq and is now a Lieutenant in the Navy Reserves.

Before their visit to Capitol Hill, the Elected Officials to Protect America's Lands  had 80 veterans who are elected officials sign on to a letter they sent to Sec. Zinke insisting that he reauthorize the LWCF in full.

A week after their D.C. visit - where they called on 7 U.S. Senators to educate them about the effort - the bill supporting the LWCF made it out of committee, where it had been stalled for a year.

"The apparent Permanente resolution of the LWCF budget is a critical step in fostering both better stewardship of our natural spaces and an important symbol: Veterans can play a helpful role in facilitating good policy,” said State Representative Paul Evans (OR). “It’s our job to stand up, as veterans, and make sure government works for everyone. I went to D.C. because we have to make sure sustainability and stewardship are national priorities. Our natural spaces are at least as important, in terms of national security, as our oil.”

Now the bill needs to be brought to the floor of Congress for a vote.

"While having the bill come out of committee is an important milestone, there is more work to be done. I'm glad our delegation had the opportunity to met with our US. Senators. With 80 veterans who are lawmakers signing the letter to Sec. Zinke insisting on reauthorization of LWCF I feel we've played our part. Veterans understand the importance of our natural places that give solace to millions. They are a part of our cultural heritage, without them we wouldn't be the nation we are,” said State Representative Debra Maria Sarinana (NM). “LWCF needs permanent reauthorization as well as full and dedicated funding. As the Committee moves to advance legislation allocating energy revenues for other purposes, it is vital that Congress continues to provide guaranteed funding to LWCF."

Since 1964, LWCF has touched every state, conserving national parks and forests, land by rivers, lakes and oceans, working forests, farms and ranches, fish and wildlife refuges, trails, and more than 41,000 state and local parks in every corner of the United States. All this has been done at no cost to taxpayers as the program is entirely funded through royalties collected on offshore drilling.

"Congress needs to be reminded that our natural resources cannot be neglected. I was pleased to join with my state legislative colleagues to make the case to renew the Land and Water Conservation Fund in Washington," said Assistant Speaker of the House, Felix W. Ortiz (NY).

The LWCF runs out of funding Sept. 30, 2018.

Members of the Elected Officials to Protect America's Lands met with Sen. Rob Wyden, and other U.S. Senators, on Sept 6th on Capitol Hill to urge the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Sen Wyden, and all the Congressional members they met met with are supportive of the LWCF becoming fully funded. From left to right in the back: State Sen. Rick Kolowski (NE), Asm. Felix Ortiz (NY) US Senator Rob Wyden, State Rep. Paul Evans, Former State Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx, (ME) Delegate Pat Young (MD). In the front: State Rep. Debbie Sarinana,(NM) and Rep. Michael Sheehy (OH).

The elected officials met with the following Members of Congress:

  • Sen. Ron Wyden (OR)
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR)
  • Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM)
  • Sen. Tom Udall (NM)
  • Sen. Angus King (ME)
  • Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4)
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY)
  • Sen. Rob Portman (OH)
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Let's Save Our Public Lands

by Assistant Speaker Felix W. Ortiz (NY)

Bold action is needed now to mitigate climate change. If we miss this opportunity to enact clean energy laws today, our children may face serious consequences. If we miss any opportunity to protect our environment, our children will suffer. That’s why I’m proudly standing with over 79 veterans who are lawmakers to protect America’s public lands. Together, we’ve signed a letter to Interior Secretary Zinke in support of the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The disastrous effects of climate change storms like Hurricane Sandy, Maria and now Florence left a path of destruction and many homeless. Harsh winters, intensive flooding, increasing temperatures and continued sea level rising all threaten our lives and livelihoods, our communities and infrastructure. We must be proactive in leading the way to protect the environment. We must protect the future of our children and grandchildren. We must protect our public lands.

Companies whose profits depend on damaging our climate should not receive two cents from New York. Our investment strategies should mirror the state's public policies. That’s why I wholeheartedly want to ensure that the state’s pension fund monies no longer line the pockets of those who profit from fossil fuels. We must divest from coal companies to help ensure our children and grand children will be able to breath fresh air. Continuing funding for the LWCF will do the same. If the upkeep of our public spaces evaporates—part of our heritage—part of the American soul will disappear.

The only way to achieve results is to work with others. Our Climate and Community Protection Act mandates that New York reach 100 percent renewable energy economy-wide by 2050, while setting standards in place to protect workers and climate-vulnerable communities. A statewide coalition of 143 labor unions, community groups, and environmental organizations has given the plan momentum, as these are diverse groups that have banded together.

In order for us to protect our natural resources we all must work together. Veterans don’t distinguish each other by what political party we are affiliated with, we all stand by and with our Constitution.

Even though Secretary Zinke has publicly expressed his support for the fund, he has also proposed a 95 percent cut to the fund's budget. That’s right—95 percent of it’s current budget. That would devastate our public lands.

The LWCF has provided recreational opportunities to all Americans and has been a source of revenue for states and local governments. Over the past 40-plus years, the LWCF program has provided more than $3.9 billion in grants funding projects in just about every county in the country.

You’ve probably been to a park, nature reserve, beauty spot or veterans’ memorial that has been funded with LWCF grants. We enjoy kayaking, canoeing, swimming, picnicking, and just being able to relax in our parks, supported by LWCF funds.

Hundreds of construction and maintenance projects that have helped save many of our our parks through the federal Land and Conservation Fund (LWCF). Since 2002, New York State has received over $33 million in grants from the LWCF.

For many, trips to a national park have become annual pilgrimages connecting families with our country’s roots while creating lasting memories. Liberty shines brightly guiding the way for millions every year in part, due to LWCF funding.

Since its establishment by Congress in 1964, the LWCF has safeguarded our natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage. Fighting for greater protections for our environment has always been a priority for me.

LWCF needs reauthorization by Congress by September 30th. Federal Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke needs to act now to help our effort.

Our character as a nation is in jeopardy of being lost if we don’t take care of our public lands, not to mention the economic loss we’d have to endure if we fail to maintain the infrastructure in our parks. A Bureau of Economic Analysis study found outdoor recreation contributes $887 billion and supports 7.6 million jobs across America. Every dollar of LWCF funds invested results in a return of $4 in economic value.

The LWCF is one of our most successful conservation programs because it draws on funds from offshore oil and gas royalties, not taxpayers, to expand, develop, and improve public lands for recreational areas, conservation, and the preservation of natural ecosystems.

Our land is intrinsic to who we are as a people. I’m proud to be working with my military brothers and sisters in the Elected Officials to Protect America's Lands, who have banded together as lawmakers, to defend and protect our public lands. We see this as a bipartisan issue. As the saying goes—if you don’t stand for something—you’ll fall for anything. We can’t afford to lose our cultural heritage, our public lands, by falling for false promises.

 

 

 

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Now is the time for all Oregonians to come to the aid of our air, lands, and waterways

OP-ed by Rep. Paul Evans

Oregonians maintain a special relationship with our environment: it transcends ideology, party, and socio-economic station. We know stewardship means a shared responsibility. We understand that sustainability of our place and people depends on us – all of us. This is why I joined legislators and elected officials from across the country and signed a letter asking for reauthorization of the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) within the US Department of Interior.

The LWCF was established in 1964. Since then it has served as a bipartisan commitment, safeguarding our natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage. It provides a critical tool for our conservation programming. Tragically, it will suffer drastic cuts if the US Congress adopts Secretary Zinke’s budget recommendations.

Zinke recommended a 95 percent reduction in the LWCF despite its impact: $3.9 billion in grants funding conservation projects in nearly every community throughout our nation. These proposed cuts would prove disastrous, causing thousands of staff lay-offs — including at least 2,000 park rangers. There would be reductions in matching funds for preservation of natural and wild spaces, as well as elimination of access for millions of Americans to our public spaces.

We must secure full funding for the LWCF. It remains one of, if not the, most successful conservation programs in history. It draws upon offshore gas and oil royalties, not taxpayers, to expand, develop, and improve public lands for recreational areas, conservation, and the preservation of our natural ecosystems. It exemplifies the conservationist vision of President Theodore Roosevelt: reinvestment of benefits derived from use of federal lands for conservation must benefit all.

For those who question the value of environmental programming as a federal priority, I offer the following Bureau of Economic Analysis: outdoor recreation contributes $887,000,000,000 (that’s billion) to our national economy, and supports 7,600,000 jobs across our nation, state, and communities. The analysis concluded that every $1.00 of LWCF investment yields a return of at least $4.00 in value.

In the Mid-Willamette Valley, the LWCF helped fund the Keizer Rapids Community Park Acquisition, the Stettheimer Park Skate Park, and the Champoeg Park Visitor Center projects, as well as hundreds of other projects throughout the State of Oregon. Since 2000, Oregon has received over $10,000,000 in grants from the LWCF enabling millions more in leveraged programming. Simply put, these projects would not have been possible absent LWCF support.

Protection of our air, lands, and waterways is a shared responsibility. As a home-grown Oregonian, as a state legislator, and as a veteran I believe it is our duty to stand up for future generations. Over the past few years we have taken steps to increase access and affordability to our natural spaces, but we cannot continue progress absent the LWCF.

Now is the time for all Oregonians to come to the aid of our air, lands, and waterways. Together we can fight back; together we can prevent the Trump Administration, Secretary Zinke, and the US Congress from abrogating our duties to our place and people.

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Our Health Depends on the Health of our Public Lands

Our heath depends on the health of our public lands, that's why I'm working with a collation of veterans to protect them

Op-ed by Rep. Linda ChapaVia

If we don’t stand behind our natural resources, we risk losing them forever. That’s why I recently signed a letter with other lawmakers who are veterans, in support of the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Since its establishment by Congress in 1964, the LWCF has been a bipartisan commitment that safeguards our natural areas, water resources, and cultural heritage.

Protecting our environment is protecting our health. Asthma rates in our state are too high. Chicago ranked the sixth worst for asthma in the nation, in 2015. Air pollution exasperates the condition, especially for children and older adults. Ensuring that we protect our public places is vital for the health and well-being of all our citizens.

All American’s need clean air and water. That’s one of the reasons I’ll continue to work for a clean energy economy that creates jobs here. United States now has enough solar capacity installed to power over ten million homes, 26 times more capacity than we had installed at the end of 2010. Wind energy has fueled jobs in the Twin Groves Wind Farm project and other wind farms. We have the land to create more wind farms.

In order for us to protect our natural resources we all must work together. Veterans don’t distinguish each other by what political party we are affiliated with, we all stand by and with our Constitution. That’s why I’m proud to stand with over 50 bipartisan veterans who are lawmakers in support of the LWCF.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided both recreational opportunities to all Americans and has been a source of revenue for states and local governments. Over the past 40-plus years, the LWCF program has provided more than $3.9 billion in grants funding projects in just about every county in the country.

Many local projects have received LWCF funding.

Close to $17 Million has been allocated since 2002 from the LWCF to Illinois, millions more since the programs inception.

In 2008 Kane County Forest Preservation received a grant from the LWCF for $750,000 for the Muirhead Springs Acquisition. Other recent projects since then, that also received $750,000, have been for Glenview Park, The Englemann Farm Park Acquisition, Jay Woods, Bailey’s Woods, Gray’s Lake Park, the Nippersink Canoe Base Acquisition, Dering Lane Park and the Hastings Lake Acquisition. Other smaller grants have also gone to projects in all of our counties. Many of our public projects are partially dependent upon this fund. We must do all we can to ensure it continues.

You’ve probably been to a park, nature reserve, beauty spot or veterans’ memorial that has been funded with LWCF grants. We enjoy kayaking, canoeing, swimming, picnicking, and just being able to relax in our parks, supported by LWCF funds.

A Bureau of Economic Analysis study found that outdoor recreation contributes $887 billion and supports 7.6 million jobs across America. Every $1 of LWCF funds invested results in a return of $4 in economic value.

Our land is intrinsic to who we are as a people.

The LWCF is one of our most successful conservation programs because it draws on funds from offshore oil and gas royalties, not taxpayers, to expand, develop, and improve public lands for recreational areas, conservation, and the preservation of natural ecosystems.

But now the LCWF is in jeopardy of not being reauthorized even though the U.S. House of Representatives, passed H.R.6147 - Interior, Environment, Financial Services, and General Government Appropriations Act, of 2019, which provides some support for the LWCF. The problem is that the U.S. Senate has not completed its review of the legislation, and while Secretary Zinke has publically expressed his support for the fund, he has also proposed a 95 percent cut to the fund's budget.

LWCF needs reauthorization by Congress by September 30th. That’s why our bipartisan letter is to Secretary Zinke. Our national parks, national forests, monuments, wildlife refuges and state projects are in jeopardy of being lost. We believe a strong showing of bipartisan support from state lawmakers, who are also veterans, can help secure Secretary Zinke's support for reauthorization of the LWCF and thereby that of Congress.

My military brothers and sisters have banded together as lawmakers to stand with our country defending our public lands. As the saying goes—if you don’t stand for something—you’ll fall for anything. We can’t afford to lose our cultural heritage, our public lands, by falling for false promises.

 

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Time is running out to fund LWCF

From High County News

Time is running out (again) for conservation’s bank account - An important source of public lands funding is set to expire at the end of September.

Editor’s note: On Thursday, the House Committee on Natural Resources moved forward on a bill to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. In press releases, both Democrats and Republicans on the committee praised the bipartisan agreement and said they intend to pass the bill before the fund expires on Sept. 30.

Each summer thousands of hikers walk sections of the Pacific Crest Trail that were once in private hands. Over the last 15 years, the federal government has purchased more than 17,000 acres along its path to protect public access to the 2,600-mile route, with money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund uses royalties from offshore oil and gas leasing to purchase private land to improve access to public lands, provide grants to state and local governments for public park projects and pay for conservation efforts on private property.

But at the end of September, the program could stop collecting money if Congress doesn’t renew it. As the clock ticks down on the fund, supporters hope it is renewed as part of one of the spending bills moving through Congress.

The fund, which was established in 1964, has broad bipartisan support. A recent survey of small businesses in Colorado, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico found that about 80 percent of small business owners support reauthorization of the LWCF. Fiscal conservatives also point out that the program pays for itself from oil exploration in federal waters, rather than relying on additional taxes.

Conservatives who oppose land transfers to the federal government oppose the LWCF, saying it has strayed from its original purpose to support local conservation projects. A 2016 report from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy think-tank, argued that the fund doesn’t do enough to support local projects and that “the LWCF is primarily a federal program that expands federal control of America’s land and water.” Over time, an increasing percentage of LWCF money has been spent on federal land purchases, rather than local and state grants.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-UT, who leads House oversight of the LWCF as the Chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources, has opposed the permanent reauthorization of the program. In September of 2015, Bishop, who has advocated for transferring federal public lands to states, allowed it to lapse without a vote. He defended the decision, writing that the fund was being used to purchase “millions of acres of land with little transparency, scant oversight and minimal local input.” A few months after it lapsed, Congress reauthorized the program for three years. 

Now with that temporary reauthorization due to expire, Bishop is willing to see the LWCF continue as long as its priorities shift away from federal land purchases. “Chairman Bishop is working on a bipartisan basis to modernize the law to ensure that states receive a more equitable share of LWCF monies and more funding is prioritized for public recreational access, as originally intended under the law,” wrote Rebekah Hoshiko, deputy press secretary for the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Under Secretary Ryan Zinke, the Interior Department, which is responsible for administering the lion’s share of LWCF funding, has sided with conservatives who want less money spent on federal land transfers. In his first budget proposal as Interior secretary, Zinke proposed slashing more than $330 million from the LWCF, but was rebuked by Congress, which instead increased spending by more than $25 million.

“It’s hard to justify taking in more land when we haven’t addressed the maintenance problem of our current holdings,” Zinke said during Senate testimony in April. The Interior Department estimates that it has more than $16 billion in overdue maintenance costs on the lands it manages.

Meanwhile, supporters of the program argue that new land holdings and easements are essential to maintaining and improving access to public lands. In many areas of the West, public and private lands are divided into a checkerboard pattern, which can lock out the public if there aren’t established legal trails or roads for public access. Some public lands are surrounded by private land and lack public access entirely. A recently released report sponsored by the sportsmen group Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership found that more than 9.5 million acres of public lands have no legally established public access. “If policymakers are serious about improving public land access for hunting and fishing, they need to pass a permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund with full, dedicated annual funding,” the report states.

Typically, LWCF spending is connected to appropriations for the Interior Department, but as of mid-September, it has not been attached to any legislation. As members of Congress jockey for spending priorities ahead of midterm elections and the LWCF edges closer to expiration, one of the most important funding sources for recreation and conservation is caught in the Capitol’s political crosswinds.

--NOTE FROM EOPA:

EOPA Protecting America's lands veterans who are also lawmakers made statements about the announcement on Sept 13th just 6 days after they visited 7 Senators on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), America’s most important conservation and recreation program.

"The apparent Permanente resolution of the LWCF budget is a critical step in fostering both better stewardship of our natural spaces and an important symbol: Veterans can play a helpful role in facilitating good policy,” said State Representative Paul Evans of Oregon. “It’s our job to stand up, as veterans, and make sure government works for everyone. I went to D.C. because we have to make sure sustainability and stewardship are national priorities. Our natural spaces are at least as important, in terms of national security, as our oil.”

"While this is an important milestone, there is more work to be done. I'm glad our delegation had the opportunity to met with our US. Senators. With 78 veterans who are lawmakers signing the letter to Sec. Zinke insisting on reauthorization of LWCF I feel we've played our part. Veterans understand the importance of our natural places that give solace to millions. They are a part of our cultural heritage, without them we wouldn't be the nation we are,” said State Representative Debra Maria Sarinana (District 21). “LWCF needs permanent reauthorization as well as full and dedicated funding. As the Committee moves to advance legislation allocating energy revenues for other purposes, it is vital that Congress continues to provide guaranteed funding to LWCF."

 

Members of the Elected Officials to Protect America's Lands met with Sen. Rob Wyden, and other US Senators, on Sept 6th on Capitol Hill to urge the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Sen Wyden, and all the US Senators they met met with want the LWCF fully funded. From left to right in the back: State Sen. Rick Kolowski (NE), Asm. Felix Ortiz (NY) US Senator Rob Wyden, State Rep. Paul Evans, Former State Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx, (ME) Delegate Pat Young (MD). In the front: State Rep. Debbie Sarinana,(NM) and Rep. Michael Sheehy (OH).

 

The elected officials met with the following Members of Congress:

  • Sen. Ron Wyden (OR)
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR)
  • Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM)
  • Sen. Tom Udall (NM)
  • Sen. Angus King (ME)
  • Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-4)
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (NY)
  • Sen. Rob Portman (OH)
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Land and Water Conservation Funds help Waterville, Maine

RiverWalk in Waterville, Maine open to the public, made possible with Land and Water Conservation Funds

The Two Cents Bridge in Watervile, (photo right) Maine got it's name from the toll charged to workers who had to cross the river to work in the factories. It's construction is unique in wire bridges and give thrills to those who cross over as the wind sways the structure. 

By Ramone du Houx

Colorful paths at the RiverWalk at the Head of Falls have transformed the disused waterfront near the Two Cents Bridge in Waterville, Maine.

The pathways circle around connecting Waterville back to it's historic past of life along the riverfront. There is even a conduit for electricity to an outdoor amphitheater, which will host performances of locals as well as invited entertainers and speakers. The theme of the RiverWalk is “Waterville’s Return to the River.”

The RiverWalk was designed by Mitchell & Associates of Portland, was funded with many differnt donations and grants. The Waterville Rotary Club in 2015 gave the lead gift of $150,000 for the RiverWalk project as a way of celebrating its centennial. City councilors accepted $50,000 from the Waterville Development Corp., and that funding was part of $300,000 the city raised locally to match a $300,000 grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Then other donations also came in.

"Without the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) projects that are vital to communities around Maine might never be funded. The LWCF is often used to get matching funds. We, as veterans, owe it to our country to stand up and defend LWCF for future generations," said State Rep. Robert Alley who recently signed a letter with 80 lawmakers who are veterans to help reauthorize the LWCF. "Our lands are our cultural heritage. Maine's economy depends on our wonderful natural places, that have received funds from LWCF. I'm proud to stand with my fellow brothers and sisters to ensure the fund is reauthorized. Waterville's creative economy is growing, in part, because of LWCF funds."

The city several years ago installed water, sewer, electricity and parking at Head of Falls, which is off Front Street. With the aide of community block grants, the Department of Economic and Community Development's help during the Baldacci administration, the city, and private donations in 2010 the city built a plaza west of the Two Cent Bridge that includes benches, an informational kiosk, a walkway and landscaping.

Though the RiverWalk is open to the public, workers are still completing some work. A dedication ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. on October 6, 2018 featuring former U.S. Sen. George J. Mitchell, who lived in Waterville when he was a young, as he principle speaker at the ceremony.

Waterville owns 14 acres at Head of Falls, and officials believe that the RiverWalk will be the catalyst for more development on the riverfront, which connects with Kennebec Messalonskee Trails. Features will include interpretive signs along the boardwalk for people to read about the river, native Americans and the log drive which ended in the late 1970s along the Kennebec.

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