Program has supported the preservation of lands for public’s enjoyment: “We’re hugging trees and kids”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 23, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) underscored the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in preserving lands across the country for use by future generations and called on the Senate to reauthorize and fully fund the program.
“This is one of the most farsighted – in fact, visionary – statutes passed in the last one hundred years,” Senator King said. “These are one of the few things that we can do around here that’s permanent – as permanent as anything can be. Laws and statutes come and go but once land is set aside for the public, it’s there permanently. I think it’s important to realize that the funding source here – the offshore oil and gas revenues – those resources belong to the public. We’re using that money that comes from property owned by boys and girls in Bangor, Maine and people that live in Alaska and people that live in San Francisco or Alabama or New York – those are their assets and we are allowing people to use them for commercial purposes. And turning that money back into access for people to public lands is absolutely essential.”
Senator King then criticized Congress for not being more responsible in not reliably funding the program throughout its history. He pointed out that LWCF funding is not only used to support large expenses like National Parks, but also is often utilized by municipalities to support programs benefiting local communities. For example, as Senator King mentioned during the hearing, he recently met with local park officials from Bath, Bangor, and Skowhegan who noted that LWCF funding allows them to partner with schools to provide a safe spaces for children to eat meals and play when they otherwise would not have had them.
“And the other thing we need to remember is this money isn’t just for Yosemite or Acadia National Park.,” Senator King continued. “I met recently with some friends in Maine who are local park officials in Bath, Maine, Bangor, Maine, and Skowhegan, Maine, and they run summer programs for kids and they have recreational opportunities and they work with the school lunch program. This is really important. We’re not just hugging trees, we’re hugging kids – and I think that’s very important.”
According to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, Maine has received approximately $172 million over the past five decades to help places such as Acadia National Park and the Saint Croix Island International Historic Site.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund, established in 1965, is set to expire in September. There are two components to the program. The federal component of the LWCF provides funding for additions to national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and other federal public lands, making it the principal source of funds for federal acquisition of lands for outdoor recreation, habitat preservation and expansion of federal land holdings. A state component of the program provides matching grants to states and localities for outdoor recreation facilities such as parks and playfields.