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Trump administration officials are in North Korea, attempting to hash out details for the on-again, off-again summit. Also on the Memorial Day rundown: Veterans urge Congress to protect the “lands of the free;” and a new report deems cell towers and power lines threats to wildlife.

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WV Senators Praised for Money Dedicated to Conservation Fund

Conservationists say a steady funding source for the Land and Water Conservation Fund will help protect areas like the New River Gorge. (M. Ahmed/West Virginia Rivers Coalition)
Conservationists say a steady funding source for the Land and Water Conservation Fund will help protect areas like the New River Gorge. (M. Ahmed/West Virginia Rivers Coalition)
April 22, 2016

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - An important conservation fund, which had been threatened in Congress, is one step closer to permanent funding. For the first time, a dedicated money source for the Land and Water Conservation Fund has made it into legislation that passed the U.S. Senate.

Angie Rosser, executive director for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, is praising Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin for voting to include the funding stream in an energy bill.

She says the LWCF has provided more than $200 million over the years to conserve and improve public access to some of the state's special places.

"The New River, the Gauley River, Canaan Valley, Cacapon," says Rosser. "It's really an important way to create access to these lands, and identify with our image as wild and wonderful West Virginia."

One House committee chair has pushed to have the LWCF money shifted to compensate counties where the federal government already owns land, saying he opposes more federal land purchases.

The House and Senate will have to settle differences on the energy bill. It's a huge, complex piece of legislation, and Rosser says not everyone is going to agree with everything in it.

But she says LWCF grants have worked for 50 years to protect and improve everything from Civil War battlefields and federal wilderness areas to state parks and city pools.

Rosser says that's going to be increasingly important, as West Virginia looks to tourism to make up for some of the lost coal-mining jobs.

"In a state where we know we're facing some hard challenges and economic transitions, this is great news for all of," Rosser says. "All of us who enjoy outdoor recreation and who want to see the state rebound."

The LWCF has been funded, not from tax revenue, but federal royalties on offshore oil and gas drilling. The current energy bill as passed by the Senate makes that funding source permanent.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV