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Major Conservation Legislation to Fund Important, Little-Known Program

The Land and Water Conservation Fund helped the Bureau of Land Management turn the Blackwell Island Recreation Site into a major recreation spot. (BLM/Flickr)
The Land and Water Conservation Fund helped the Bureau of Land Management turn the Blackwell Island Recreation Site into a major recreation spot. (BLM/Flickr)
August 4, 2020

BOISE, Idaho -- In a major victory for conservation, President Donald Trump is slated to sign the Great American Outdoors Act today. Included in the legislation is a little-known but key program called the Land and Water Conservation Fund that is used for everything from improving access to public lands to funding city parks.

Kari Kostka, director of external affairs at The Nature Conservancy of Idaho, said the program will receive its full funding of $900 million annually.

"Passage of this bill is truly a historic and monumental win for conservation and has a lot of people very excited," Kostka said.

She said the fund regularly does not get full funding. In 2019, for example, it received $495 million of the $900 million it was supposed to get. Funds are collected from offshore oil and gas drilling revenue.

Idaho has received nearly $290 million over the past 50 years from the program, according to the LWCF Coalition.

Jeff Cartwright works with LWCF as the acquisition and withdrawal program lead for the Bureau of Land Management's Idaho state office. He said there are many examples of LWCF-funded projects across the state, including conservation easements on the Salmon and Snake rivers to keep those places pristine.

He also pointed to the Blackwell Island Recreation Site outside of Coeur d'Alene.

"We basically turned a parcel of bare land and now it's a massive recreation site with over 40,000 annual visitors, a four-lane boat launch, 130-vehicle trailer parking, shelters for people to rent out and have parties and picnics at," Cartwright said.

Kostka said Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson played an outsized role in getting this bipartisan bill passed.

"Congressman Simpson has long been a champion of Idaho's outdoor and natural places and was a lead co-sponsor for the Great American Outdoors Act in the U.S. House of Representatives," Kostka said.

With the president's signature, additional funding for conservation projects will become available in Idaho and across the country soon.

Disclosure: The Nature Conservancy of Idaho contributes to our fund for reporting on Environment. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID