Suzanne Potter
Public News Service – CA

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Conservation groups are speaking out, asking Congress to renew what they say is an important public lands program before it expires on September 30th.

California alone has received almost $2.5 billion from the Land and Water Conservation Fund since it was established 53 years ago. The program raises about $900 million a year from fees on offshore oil and gas drilling, and makes it available to build and maintain everything from state and national parks to local ball fields.

Howard Penn, executive director of the Planning and Conservation League, a California-based nonprofit, says everyone in the Golden State benefits from the LWCF.

“That money has gone to projects all across the state from the Santa Monica Mountains, to the Pacific C

rest Trail, to Joshua Tree, to Lake Tahoe, to parks in local communities and cities,” says Penn.

Those projects boost the outdoor economy, which the Outdoor Industry Association says prompts $92 billion a year in consumer spending in California, supports almost 700,000 jobs, and produces more than $6 billion in state and local taxes annually.

President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget proposes to gut the LWCF, which would end funding for new projects, as well as maintenance for existing parks and facilities.

Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands for the National Wildlife Federation, notes the program has been renewed with little controversy for five decades – and she hopes lawmakers will find a long-term solution.

“We would like a permanent reauthorization of this program, so that future generations can be assured that the funds will be there for future park purchases, and to ensure that as our population grows, our open spaces and protected lands can grow with it,” says Stone-Manning.

Some of the California projects slated to receive funding in 2019 include Headwaters Forest National Reserve and Sand to Snow National Monument.

Time is Running Out on Decades-Old Conservation Fund

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