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Senator Corker demands the Trump administration share intelligence on the killing of a Washington Post columnist. Also on the Friday rundown: groups sue over the Texas border wall plan; and the soggy summer in some states may lead to higher pumpkin prices for Halloween.

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Veterans Urge Congress to Reauthorize Public Lands Funding

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been used to increase access for hunting and fishing in places such as Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch in Colorado. (Western Rivers Conservancy)
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been used to increase access for hunting and fishing in places such as Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch in Colorado. (Western Rivers Conservancy)
July 24, 2018

DENVER – Some U.S. veterans are urging members of Congress to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a national conservation and recreation program which is set to expire in September. The fund has helped improve access to the nation's public lands.

Garett Reppenhagen is a vet who served in Kosovo and Iraq and is the Rocky Mountain director for the Vet Voice Foundation. He says places including Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, and others helped him readjust to civilian life.

"Places like that, when you get away from Netflix and your cell phones, you can have the quality conversations with the people that you love," he explains. "And it's an incredible opportunity for our veterans to find some sort of therapy after coming home from war."

Reppenhagen notes the fund gets its money from royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas offshore, not taxpayer dollars. Local governments have tapped the fund to build playgrounds, trails, parks, swimming pools, urban bike paths, soccer fields, baseball fields and other facilities. Over 41,000 projects have been supported by the fund since its creation in 1965.

Reppenhagen adds public lands also provide cost-effective opportunities for young people to put down their video games and get outside and be active, and points to research showing that over a quarter of young Americans are too overweight to serve in the military. As a father of a three-year-old son, Reppenhagen says he doesn't want to see those lands lost to future generations.

"I want him to be able to experience the same outdoor opportunities that I did," he says. "Places where they can learn to love nature, to love biology, and science and wildlife. And I think most veterans agree that we served this country to provide those kinds of opportunities for the next generation."

The fund has also helped preserve military heritage sites, battlefields and monuments. Reppenhagen says protecting those sites helps ensure that children have a connection to the nation's history.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO