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PNS Daily Newscast - March 22, 2019 


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Idaho Delegation, Supporters Gather to Protect Conservation Program

Idaho has received $279 million from the LWCF over the past 50 years to protect places like the South Fork of the Snake River. (Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management)
Idaho has received $279 million from the LWCF over the past 50 years to protect places like the South Fork of the Snake River. (Bob Wick/Bureau of Land Management)
August 23, 2018

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Idaho's congressional delegation and other supporters of a federal conservation program gather at the South Fork of the Snake River Thursday to stress the need to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund before it expires.

Rep. Mike Simpson and staff for Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo – all three lawmakers are Republicans – will be at the event celebrating the fund, which has been used to protect landscapes throughout Idaho since it was created in 1965.

Michael Whitfield, a member of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, says the South Fork of the Snake is a fitting place as the site of many projects funded by the program.

"It's, scenically, incredibly beautiful,” he states. “It's a major, world class fishery. It experiences probably half a million recreational visits a year with people who float that river to see all the wildlife and to enjoy the spectacular, native cutthroat trout fishery."

Whitfield says nearly every county in the state has benefited from the program, which also funds parks and recreational facilities such as soccer fields.

Idaho has received nearly $280 million since the Land and Water Conservation Fund was created. The Gem State's delegation has supported the fund in the past.

The fund expires on Sept. 30 unless Congress reauthorizes it.

Supporters of LWCF include many Idaho landowners. Whitfield says they use the fund to keep their land the way it is.

Whitfield adds there's growing urgency to ensure that the program is reauthorized, because many projects require coordination and certainty that funding will be available.

"The projects take time to negotiate,” he points out.
“They're always done with willing landowners on a voluntary basis. And they're making big decisions, which takes time and some assurance that the program will be there."

The program is funded with royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling, meaning it isn't supported by general taxpayer dollars.

Another measure in Congress would use those royalty payments to address the National Park Service maintenance backlog.

Whitfield says both can be supported, so his and other conservation groups would like to see both measures pass.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID