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Land and Water Conservation Fund Lauded, Defended

PHOTO: Two Lights State Park in Cumberland County is among the beneficiaries of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Congress initially passed legislation creating the fund 50 years ago this week. Photo credit: Wikipedia.
PHOTO: Two Lights State Park in Cumberland County is among the beneficiaries of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Congress initially passed legislation creating the fund 50 years ago this week. Photo credit: Wikipedia.
July 24, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the vote in Congress which created the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on September 3, 1964, the fund uses royalty money from offshore oil and gas drilling for conservation and recreation projects, in part to help mitigate the environmental damage from resource extraction. The fund is up for reauthorization in 2015, and Senator Susan Collins is watching to see if Congress will opt to scrap it or keep it.

"Too often in the debates in Congress, these arguments are posited as if it were 'the economy versus the environment,'" says Collins. "Well, in a state like Maine, the environment is the economy."

LWCF grants are administered at the federal level by the Department of the Interior, and at the state level by the Bureau of Parks and Lands in the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

Former Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett, now the managing director for public policy at the Nature Conservancy, says the same link between the environment and the economy can be drawn on a national level.

"Outdoor recreation, nature conservation and historic preservation contribute $1.1 trillion annually to the economy," says Scarlett.

Despite the more contentious political climate than when the LWCF was first passed in 1964, Scarlett has called for reauthorization of the act and continued funding at current levels.

"As envisioned by a bipartisan Congress 50 years ago, we need to continue to reinvest those revenues into sustaining our lands, waters and natural resources for the long-term benefit of our communities," she says.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME