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Hunting and Fishing Groups Want Promises Fulfilled

PHOTO: Yellowstone cutthroat trout fishing contributes $20 million a year in recreation spending in southeastern Idaho. A new report shows how the Land and Water Conservation Fund helps preserve the fishery, and calls for full LWCF funding. Photo credit: National Park Service
PHOTO: Yellowstone cutthroat trout fishing contributes $20 million a year in recreation spending in southeastern Idaho. A new report shows how the Land and Water Conservation Fund helps preserve the fishery, and calls for full LWCF funding. Photo credit: National Park Service
September 5, 2014

ASHTON, Idaho - A new report that details the benefits of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in Idaho also is calling for the fund to be completely filled. The LWCF turned 50 this week.

Rob Van Kirk, senior scientist at the Henry's Fork Foundation, said the funds have been key for preserving water and streambank quality and access along the South Fork of the Snake River, a region that brings in about $20 million related to hunting and fishing each year.

"It supports one of the last populations of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout in a large river environment," he said, "and that's really a huge resource for Idaho - and for the entire country, really."

The fund is used for a variety of projects, from local parks, trails and open spaces to conservation easements on working ranch and forest lands.

Whit Fosburgh, president and chief executive of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, reminded people that a unanimous vote in 1964 created the Land and Water Conservation Fund and conservation issues have seen strong bipartisan support for decades. His group wants to see it fully topped off.

"It's only been more recently that there's been this sort of stratification and polarization around conservation and the environment, and it's become political," he said. "We want to try to take that back."

Van Kirk said money from the fund always is used in the best interest of local communities and preserving access, along with protecting important habitats and working landscapes.

"I really value the partnerships that we have," he said, "and I really like the model of conservation easements, 'willing buyer-willing seller' type arrangements, where Land and Water Conservation Funds are used to help facilitate these transactions and preserve these resources."

Royalties paid by oil and gas companies go into the LWCF, and in almost every year Congress has diverted much of the money.

The report, "The Land and Water Conservation Fund and America's Sportsmen and Women," is online at trcp.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID