Trimmel Gomes, Florida News Connection
August 17, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Time is running out to renew the federal fund that has supported conservation and recreation projects across the U.S. for more than 50 years – and public-lands advocates are calling on Congress to act quickly.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has used revenue from offshore drilling since the 1960s to support national parks, wildlife refuges and historic sites – all at no cost to taxpayers. In Florida, just over a billion LWCF dollars have been invested, according to the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition.
Preston Robertson, CEO and general counsel with the Florida Wildlife Federation, says that money has supported the kinds of outdoor recreation the state is known for.
“A lot of the springs in Florida have been benefited by this money – again, St. Marks, Poe Springs north of Gainesville, Paynes Prairie,” says Robertson. “If people ever crossed over Paynes Prairie, some of that 21,000 acres of that wonderful prairie was protected with Land and Water Conservation Fund money.”
Robertson says the impact of losing support for these types of projects would be devastating to Florida. The fund will expire September 30th unless Congress acts.
Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands with the National Wildlife Federation, says Congress needs to not just reauthorize the fund, but make it permanent.
“For the last 50 years, we have been creating these remarkable public places – from urban parks to protecting wildlife habitat,” says Stone-Manning. “And we have an obligation now to the future, to ensure that this incredible American conservation success story continues.”
Bipartisan bills in both the House and Senate are being considered to renew the LWCF, but only 44 days remain until the fund expires.