Good news today! (12/17/2015) The LWCF has been authorized for three more years. This is a good start. Hopefully, permanent authorization and funding will follow.
I normally avoid political topics on this blog because we all have our own beliefs and circumstances and I have no desire to debate others about theirs, or convince anyone about mine. In fact, the reason I haven’t written anything for over a month is because I’ve been sort of agonizing over whether to write about this or not. But, the failure to renew the Land and Water Conservation Fund has infuriated me. How can anyone justify killing a no-cost-to-taxpayers, bipartisan-supported conservation program that has been working well for more than fifty years? Don’t ask me, ask Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT), who is responsible for preventing the program’s renewal from ever reaching a vote.
Apparently, Rep. Bishop has a problem with the federal government purchasing “inholdings,” which are private parcels of land entirely surrounded by National Parks, National Monuments, and National Forests. The funding for these purchases, which are only made when landowners willingly offer the parcels for sale, comes from the LWCF. Without it, there is no money to purchase these inholdings if and when a parcel comes up for sale. What this means is that chunks of land, entirely within the boundaries of protected places, will become available to be purchased by private developers or others with no interest in preservation of public spaces. At best, this means fences, locked gates and “no trespassing” signs. At worst, well it could be anything from mansions, to strip malls, to oil wells, or things like the proposed Escalade Development near the Grand Canyon.
When I first heard of this debacle, I searched the internet for information about the LWCF. I got results from all over the country, and especially the west. National, state, and local representatives, non-profit groups, and even businesses, from all over the country are calling for renewal of this program, which not only funds big projects, but smaller ones such as city and county parks, boating and fishing access, and historic location preservation and restoration.
While I understand Rep. Bishop may have a problem with the way the fund is administered, I completely disagree that the way to resolve it is by killing off the program. It also appears that rather than representing the interests of his constituents, he may be representing other interests.
Having spent much of the past year exploring and enjoying public lands in the western US, I may not agree with every detail of how the government manages them. However, it would be a huge mistake to privatize them in reaction. I for one, am immensely grateful that there are protected spaces in this country that belong to all of us. And I truly hope our elected representatives will do the right thing and re-authorize this program before further damage is done. If you would like to learn more about the LWCF and the projects for which it has provided funding, you can visit the program’s home page here.
To see more of my photography, which is almost entirely from public lands in the western US, including National Parks, National Monuments, and National Wildlife Refuges, visit the “Galleries” tab at the top of this page.