America’s Landscape and the Land and Water Conservation Fund

White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire...

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

OPINION

By Catherine Bushueff

New Hampshire is largely defined by its green and open spaces, its vital forest lands and its recreational landscape…including the spectacular White Mountain National Forest and our state parks, beaches and forests. A key partner in protecting and providing for these areas is the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The Keene Sentinel observed in its Dec. 7th editorial: “The Land and Water Conservation Fund helps keep the nation green.”

The Concord Monitor editorial said:

The conservation fund preserves historic battlefields and helps maintain forest economies It creates jobs restoring parks that have been allowed to fall into disrepair. And it adds threatened lands to conservation areas like the Sylvia Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge that protects the New Hampshire headwaters of the Connecticut River and the river’s watershed.

LWCF has been instrumental in preserving the nation’s land, water, wildlife and recreation heritage, which in turn strengthen local economies and communities and enhance the quality of life.

LWCF’s federal land acquisition program supports the acquisition of lands for national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges, and desert landscapes. The State Assistance Program, funds such projects as local parks, sports fields, and outdoor recreation infrastructure.

Investments through the decades have directly impacted the Sunapee region and benefited all that enjoy Mount Sunapee State Park for its skiing, swimming, camping, hiking and outdoor enjoyment. That is just one example.

Locally, LWCF helped the Town of Sunapee acquire an important piece of land at Sunapee Harbor, the Ben Mere property—now our town common—where we gather for outdoor music in summer, ice skating in winter, and community happenings all year round. LWCF also helped Sunapee acquire the upper part of Ski Tow Hill, now part of our town forest.

Considering the economic times, it’s important to note that royalty fees by oil companies drilling offshore fuel the Land and Water Conservation fund, not taxpayer dollars. And despite the original intent of the law, to provide $900 million annually to LWCF projects, that has seldom happened.

Congress has fully funded the program only twice, and this year funding remains up in the air. The House already approved full funding; the Senate has yet to act.

Key Republicans including Gregg (R-NH) and Brown (R-MA) sent a letter to the Senate leadership calling for action on LWCF in the lame duck session. Also, organized efforts led by conservation and outdoor recreation groups and members of the business community, including NH-based Eastern Mountain Sports, are campaigning in support of full funding this year. People are writing letters to newspaper editors and calling their senators.

As the Keene Sentinel wrote in its editorial:

There are few things of limited supply in the nation today. In the political sector: patience. In the economic sector: jobs. In the natural setting: land. Under the right circumstances, both patience and jobs will return. But once land goes to development, it never comes back. That distinction, which is integral to the purpose of the Land and Water Conservation fund, is worth noting — in word and deed.

Yes, indeed. It’s time to remember our environment and our recreational landscape with full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

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