Congress stood by and watched as the highly successful, fifty-year-old Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) expired on October 1st. Possibly the most important conservation program in the country, the LWCF funded national, state and local parks, civil war memorials, national forests, fishing and hunting access, and myriad more needs on public lands.
“This is a sad day for everyone who cares about our national parks and outdoor conservation, recreation, and wildlife. Congress has broken an enduring promise to the American people,” said Alan Rowsome, of the Wilderness Society and Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. All that public benefit and it cost the public not a dime. Instead up to $900 million a year was collected as a royalty from offshore oil and gas operations. Though the LWCF was almost never fully appropriated, the funds will now just disappear into the general treasury.
Utah Rep. Rob Bishop led the charge to defund the LWCF as other congressmen on both sides of the aisle cried foul. “We should make it permanent, avoid prolonged budget battles, and get back to the business of protecting our natural spaces,” said Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva.
Given the current climate in congress no one is expecting much action. However, conservation groups and Montana Sen. Steve Daines want to perform CPR and are looking for ways to breathe life back into the program. The senator said attaching reauthorization to a spending or transportation bill could make it happen.
Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.