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Report Highlights 50 Years of Conservation Success

Congress is considering reauthorizing a fund that helps protect iconic sites such as Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Credit: U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Congress is considering reauthorizing a fund that helps protect iconic sites such as Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Credit: U.S. Bureau of Land Management
September 10, 2015

DENVER - It's not a household name, but The Land and Water Conservation Fund may be one of the most successful conservation programs in the nation's history, according to a new report.

The fund is set to expire in 20 days unless Congress moves to reauthorize the program. David Nickum, executive director with Colorado Trout Unlimited, says Coloradans have skin in the game on this one since 90 percent of the state's residents enjoy outdoor recreation.

"If you have gone hunting or fishing on our public lands, if you have gone to a community park in your home town, if you have gone camping around the state, odds are at some point you've been benefiting from Land and Water Conservation Fund," says Nickum.

The fund was created with bipartisan support in 1964 to protect America's natural resources using royalties from oil and gas companies drilling offshore. The fund has helped preserve iconic Colorado landscapes such as Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain national parks.

Nickum says the fund also is critical to Colorado because outdoor recreation contributes more than $34 billion annually to the state's economy and more than 300,000 jobs. He says the Land and Water Conservation Fund helps connect skiers to slopes, and helps hunters and anglers access the state's wilderness areas and rivers.

"So it's really directly investing into protecting lands or providing facilities and resources for outdoor recreation," says Nickum. "That's the whole premise of the program and it's what it's done very well for the last 50 years."

Nickum notes the fund's success stories range from transforming urban spaces into nature and science centers for kids to flood recovery on the Big Thompson River in 1976, protecting floodplains that saved $16 million in property damage during the 2013 floods. Congress has 20 days to decide whether or not to extend the program's conservation efforts for future generations.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO