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Veterans Call for Reauthorization of Conservation Fund

Land and Water Conservation Fund money helped create the Flight 93 National Memorial. (NPS/Brenda Schwartz)
Land and Water Conservation Fund money helped create the Flight 93 National Memorial. (NPS/Brenda Schwartz)
July 24, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Veterans are raising concerns that a fund supporting U.S. public lands, recreational areas and monuments may be in jeopardy.

Unless Congress acts, the Land and Water Conservation Fund will expire in September. Entirely funded by money from royalties on offshore oil leases, the fund has supported more than 41,000 local projects over the past 50 years.

Garett Reppenhagen is an Army veteran and a spokesperson for the Vet Voices Foundation. He says the fund helps returning veterans find the kind of solace that can ease their transition back to civilian life.

"It helps fund a lot of easements, green spaces in urban areas, access to our public lands and even preserves battlefields and military history," he explains. "And if not reauthorized before the September deadline, then the program ceases to exist."

Congress allowed the fund to expire in 2015, but after public outcry, it was extended for three years.

Reppenhagen notes that money from the LWCF was instrumental in creating the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, in honor of the 40 passengers and crew who lost their lives there on September 11, 2001.

"I joined the military service and was in basic training weeks after 9/11, so I think that site ties into a lot of hearts of American veterans that have served post-9/11," he says.

Nationwide, nearly five million acres of public lands have been protected for public use with LWCF money.

Reppenhagen adds that renewing the fund is critical for building and maintaining parks and playgrounds, bike paths, swimming pools and other recreational facilities for today's children and future generations in almost every county in every state.

"We served this country to provide those kinds of opportunities for the next generation and to build the potential of what America can be, and that's focused on those kids and our grandkids and their grandkids," he adds.

The nonprofit Vet Voices Foundation is calling for permanent authorization and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA