Thursday, July 18, 2019

Here's why we need to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Let's talk about the LWCF because it's critical for our public lands. 

Established by congress in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund helps preserve and safeguard special places of wilderness. If you've been reading my blog for a while now, you may know I'm a huge, passionate advocate for public lands and take these issues seriously.

To date some $3.9 billion in grants have been awarded for improvements in state parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuges, county recreation areas, and a long list of National Park Service properties (national parks, recreation areas, historic battlefields, monuments, etc). Additionally, more than 2.37 million acres land have been acquired for conservation and recreation and funding also goes towards wildlife protection.

Where does the actual funding come from? It's simple. Every year, energy companies that drill into the outer continental shelf for oil or gas are required to pay millions of to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management as a compensation for depleting these natural resources. A good, hefty chunk of the royalties and fees collected are then diverted directly to the LWCF, which then trickles down to state, federal, and local levels for various needs.

The LWCF continues to play a big role in Wisconsin's public lands, which have received more than $218 million from the pot of funding. That money has gone along way here in Wisco the past five decades, with bettering happening at all corners of the state.

A few examples include the cordwalk through the dunes at Kohler-Andrae State Park; signage for our hundreds of State Natural Areas; land set aside for creating Aztalan and Newport State Parks, plus several Milwaukee County Parks; routine upkeep along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail; and as seen here in the photo above taken at Potawatomi State Park, a nice shower building in the campground.

A few other achievements here in Wisconsin made possible by the LWCF:
  • Building of the new interpretive center at Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area
  • Pit toilet replacement at Point Beach State Forest
  • Campground expansions and development at Kohler-Andrae, Lake Wissota, Potawatomi, Governor Dodge, Lake Kegonsa, and Hartman Creek State Parks
  • Bike trails along Lake Michigan and beyond in Milwaukee County
  • Shelters at Harrington Beach,
  • Bettering historic Covered Bridge Park in Ozaukee County
  • Further expansion of Devils Lake State Park
  • Adding land and segments to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail that's co-operated by the National Park Service
  • And maybe the most important...the recent 2011-2016 SCORP, or the Wisconsin Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, a report that studies and analyzes recreational trends through user surveys and other data here in Wisconsin that determines where and how funding from the LWCF is distributed.
But sometimes, the LWCF becomes a target for greedy members of congress who wish to strip funding away for it period. But we can't ever let that happen, and when the LWCF was in the crosshairs for elimination last year, I spoke up and shot-off emails to those in our state's government who were spearheading an effort to not let the LWCF dry up for good. Thankfully so did many others, and as a result a bipartisan agreement permanently reauthorized the LWCF.

The catch now, is that we need to get permanent funding back for the LWCF. While the LWCF is back, our current administration's budget calls for no funding at all for it. Disgusting. Currently, a hot ticket item, "S.1081 - Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act," is floating its way through congress, with plenty of cosponsors in both parties aiming for a hopeful $900 million per year funding.

Looks like I'll be sending a few more emails out this week. We have to take care of our public lands, because they are ours. That tree frog agrees.