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Federal Fund Expiration Could Threaten Michigan's "Crowned Jewels"

The Land and Conservation Fund helps protect the Ottowa National Forest. Credit: Joseph O'Brien, USDA Forest Service
The Land and Conservation Fund helps protect the Ottowa National Forest. Credit: Joseph O'Brien, USDA Forest Service
October 5, 2015

LANSING, Mich. - Conservation groups are not giving up their fight to continue a program that supports some of Michigan's, and the nation's, crowned jewels.

Congress allowed the Land and Water Conservation Fund to expire last week, a fund that protects national parks and other lands, including the MotorCities National Heritage Area and the Ottawa National Forest.

The Wilderness Society's director Amy Lindholm says one of the reasons it's been successful for the past 50 years is because it's not funded by taxpayer dollars.

"It's funded by a small portion of offshore oil and gas royalties in a very kind of elegant arrangement of drawing down one asset that belongs to the American public and reinvesting a small piece of the profit from that in a permanent asset for the American public," says Lindholm.

The fund also prevented private development inside the borders of national parks and forests, and provided support for many state and local projects. Some opponents of extended funding say the program placed too much priority on federal projects and land acquisition, and should be reformed to focus on other needs such as lands management.

The fund was originally signed into law in 1965 and reauthorized for another 25 years in 1990. Lindholm says it only became a subject of disagreement just a short time ago.

"It has become a political football in recent years because of a very small minority of folks who basically have an ideological opposition to federal land in general and who have seized upon the Land and Water Conservation Fund as a way to talk about the federal government owning too much land," says Lindholm.

Over the past 50 years, Michigan has received approximately $322 million in Land and Water Conservation funding. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), along with a handful of democratic representatives from Michigan, have expressed support for the fund.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI