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Fund Important for WI Recreation and Timber Set to Expire

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has protected lands in Wisconsin such as the North Country National Scenic Trail. (Aaron Carlson/Flickr)
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has protected lands in Wisconsin such as the North Country National Scenic Trail. (Aaron Carlson/Flickr)
August 14, 2018

MADISON, Wis. – As the clock ticks down, conservation groups are calling for the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a program that's won bipartisan support in the past.

Wisconsin has received more than $210 million since the fund was created more than 50 years ago. It's set to expire on September 30.

Along with protecting areas such as the Ice Age and North Country National Scenic Trails, the executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, George Myer, says the fund's Forest Legacy Program also is protecting the state's forests from development.

He says this supports recreation as well as the timber industry, which is integral to northern Wisconsin's economy.

"[It] provides timber that's used by the important pulp and paper industry in the state, and also the many sawmills throughout the state, which provide timber for building homes and other buildings," he explains. "Provides jobs for loggers, and really is critically important."

Myer says the Forest Legacy Program has protected more than 100,000 acres of land in Wisconsin. It's leveraged $28 million in federal funds to invest in easements and fee acquisitions in order to protect these lands. The fund also is used to build playgrounds, swimming pools, baseball fields and other facilities.

Myer says protecting lands for recreation is important for Wisconsin's economy too. Outdoor recreation contributes nearly $18 billion in consumer spending and supports nearly 170,000 jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. He says the beauty of this program is that it's funded through royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas offshore.

"It's a real logical fit," he adds. "It doesn't come from taxpayer dollars. So this is really a win-win for all the citizens in Wisconsin."

Conservation groups also want to see it fully funded. In most years, Congress raids the fund to spend on other projects.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WI