Trimmel Gomes, Florida News Connection
July 25, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – 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 that is set to expire in September.
The LWCF has helped improve access to the nation’s public lands, and Garett Reppenhagen, who served in Kosovo and Iraq, said places such as Florida’s Lewis Landing Park, a Native American site in Fort Lauderdale, and others have benefited from those funds, which provide welcome recreation and pay tribute to veterans and their families.
“Also in Seminole, Fla., there is a Veterans Memorial that’s actually built using LWCF dollars,” he said. “So, to pay tribute to our veterans and especially our veterans in Florida is a huge help that LWCF provides.”
Reppenagen, Rocky Mountain director of the Vet Voice Foundation, said 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. More than 41,000 projects have been supported since the fund’s creation in 1965.
Reppenhagen said public lands also provide cost-effective opportunities for young people to put down their video games, get outside and be active. He pointed to research that found that more than one in four young Americans are too overweight to serve in the military. As a father of a 3-year-old son, Reppenhagen said 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, places where they can learn to love nature, to love biology and science and wildlife,” he said. “And I think most veterans agree that we served this country to provide those kind of opportunities for the next generation.”
The fund also has helped preserve military heritage sites, battlefields and monuments. Reppenhagen said protecting those sites helps ensure that children have a connection to the nation’s history.
The Vet Voice Foundation’s position paper is online at vetvoicefoundation.org.