Take Action! Support the Re-authorization of the LWCF

greenway

-Chris Soulies

Parks are all around us.  Odds are your family went to parks when you were young and the probability of you taking your family to them in the future is high.  Americans plan entire vacations around national parks, long three day weekends are spent at state parks and we often spend time after work or maybe a lunch break taking a walk through a greenway or community park. The city of New York spent a great deal of money on Central Park because someone understood the importance of people having a place of natural beauty available as a refuge from the stressors of life’s daily grind.

 

But where did these parks come from?  Who thought they were a good idea and from where did the seed money come?  Will new parks ever be formed in the future or are what exists now the end of setting aside magnificent view sheds for the good of the people? Well, the end may be closer than you think, but first let us discuss a few basics.

 

There are two predominant ideas about the safekeeping of our lands.  One is land preservation which is the philosophy of John Muir which contends that lands must be protected and left alone in their pristine state by prohibiting any kind of use other than pedestrian activities.  Land conservation, the brainchild of Gifford Pinchot, attests that we must allow ourselves to utilize the land and its resources in sustainable measures so they can be enjoyed and used for the current generation’s prosperity while managing it so that future generations may enjoy the same yields.  These are “nutshell” definitions but they are enough to understand that both seek the land’s protection and have people in mind.

 

With these definitions in mind, let us look at a few of many entities that rule over these lands.  The National Park Service is charged with keeping certain parcels of this country untouched by developers, timber harvesters, mining operations, etc.  They are a land preservation focused organization and report to the US Department of the Interior.  The National Forest Service, however, reports to the US Department of Agriculture as it operates with land conservation as its focus and in these acres, trees are viewed as a crop.  Many operations are allowed on NFS lands along with timber harvesting.  The approach is to utilize these acres in a sustainable way so they provide for us over generations.  While there are stark differences in the missions of these two services, they both allow, and maintain, areas that people can enjoy a myriad of outdoor activities.  The work does not stop at the national level, however.  Many state and local acreages, albeit smaller, are set aside with the same focus to provide the state’s residents with resources and enjoyment.

 

But all of this is in danger of coming to an end in September of 2015.  This marks the end of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) of 1964.  This fund was created to purchase lands to keep them safe from development and to utilize them as any one of many types of parks.  The fund draws its money from the profits gained through off shore US operated oil rigs.  According to the LWCF Coalition, over the past five decades, North Carolina alone has benefited from $216 million of federal and state program funds ensuring the purchase and protection of areas such as the Pisgah National Forest, Camp Hatteras National Seashore, Yellow Mountain, Chimney Rock and many other state and federal sites contributing $730 billion to the national economy (lwcf.org).  It is clear that the establishment of lands for recreational use has greatly benefited the country and it stands to reason that the continuance of this practice will continue to do so.  You see, it is not just the lands that we must sustain, but also our economy.  It is so much more than saving trees and trails, it is maintaining a prosperous country for future Americans and her visitors.

 

Now is your chance to take action.  Write your Congressman and urge them to vote for the permanent reauthorization of the LWCF.  Even now they debate the issue in Washington D.C. so don’t delay, let your voice be heard!  For further information, assistance in choosing who to write and to sign an online petition, please visit the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition at www.lwcfcoalition.org