Wasatch Environmental Update; The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965

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Wasatch Environmental Update for August 9, 2015

By John Worlock, Member, Board of Directors of Save Our Canyons

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965”

One of the significant pieces of federal legislation during the heady days of the 1960’s is the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965. It stands along with the Wilderness Act of 1964 as a monument to the bipartisan vision of the congress and the administration of those days. We often wonder what happened to that era of good sense and good feelings.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund comes into our focus just now as, in the absence of congressional action, it is set for expiration soon. Over its half century, it has been a important source of support for recreational and environmental projects in almost every county of the nation, including many in Utah, and we hope that the current congress has the wisdom to renew it now.

At its inception the act obligated congress to put some 900 million dollars annually into the fund, which was to be distributed among the states roughly according to population for a variety of projects.. Those 900 million dollars were to come largely from offshore oil and gas revenues. But over the years, only twice has congress authorized the full appropriation, and in fact it is estimated that over the half century fully 40 percent of the possible funds have not been allocated.

Not that the federal agencies have been rolling in money. Deferred upkeep on the National Parks, the National Forests, National Wildlife Preserves and the Bureau of Land Management territories runs into the tens of billions of dollars. Most of the similar agencies of the states are equally in arrears. Meanwhile the nation’s population has doubled in the half century since the Land and Water Conservation Fund was established, and surely the pressures on recreational land have more than doubled.

There are bills in congress to revive, extend, and even make permanent this important federal support for recreation and the environment, but time is of the essence since the expiration is set for September 30, 2015.

An excellent source for information is the website of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, l w c f coalition dot org. Look for their 50th Anniversary Report and study their Utah fact-sheet.

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