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Veterans: Congress Should Reauthorize Key Public Lands Program

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped protect part of the world-renowned Olympic National Park. (Sean O'Neill/Flickr)
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped protect part of the world-renowned Olympic National Park. (Sean O'Neill/Flickr)
July 24, 2018

SEATTLE – Some U.S. military veterans want Congress to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program that protects access to public lands and recreation that is set to expire at the end of September.

The Vet Voice Foundation says the program helps keep opportunities like hiking and hunting open to everyone and is especially important for veterans who use the land as a place to recover after their service.

Paul Eaton is a retired major general who served for 33 years and is now managing director of Vet Voice. He says it has protected parts of Olympic National Park, the San Juan Islands and more. He adds these are places where all Americans can recuperate.

"A way that is at once inexpensive and very efficient to deal with a stressor, to work your way through a personal problem, is through introspection and in an environment where you see just how beautiful life can be," he explains.

The program receives funding from royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas offshore. Funds are also used to build playgrounds, trails, parks, swimming pools, urban bike paths, soccer fields, and other facilities. More than 41,000 projects have been supported by the fund since its creation in 1965, including more than 600 in the Evergreen State.

Eaton says he learned how to swim in a pool funded by the LWCF. He praises the program for facilitating outdoor activities for kids and says legislators have a chance to continue to help young people if they renew it.

"They have in their hands the opportunity to instate, in permanence and full funding, an instrument that has helped more young Americans become better citizens than any other instrument that I can think of for a high return on investment," he says.

Funds also have helped preserve historic military sites, battlefields and monuments. Washington state has received more than $600 million from the program since its inception more than 50 years ago.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA