Wasatch Environmental Update for November 22, 2015
By John Worlock, Member Board of Directors, Save Our Canyons
Fifty years ago a benevolent congress passed a visionary law called the Land and Water Conservation Act of 1965. It provided for an annual gift to the states and their counties and municipalities as well as to the several land-owning federal bureaus such as the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and so on. The idea was to use the money for developing parks and recreation facilities countrywide, as well as to buy up inholdings within federal lands such as National Parks, and even to expand boundaries of such parks when willing sellers could be found.
Congress had the brilliant idea of funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund largely from royalties from offshore oil and gas leases. Over the years, Congress has only rarely added the full amount of nine hundred million dollars, to the Fund, but it has been a welcome and beneficial source.
Utah has used some 63 million federal dollars to support important recreational and conservation enterprises. Local examples are the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and the Red Butte Canyon Research Area. To learn how that money has been distributed throughout Utah, go to the website of the Land and Water Conservation FundCoalition: www.lwcf.org/utah
The present Congress failed to revive the Fund when it expired a month and a half ago, in spite of widespread bipartisan support. Standing in its way is Utah’s Representative Rob Bishop, chair of the crucial House Committee on Natural Resources, and a long-time critic of the federal presence in western states.
Bishop has now revealed his plan for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. His bill is called “Protecting America’s Recreation and Conservation Act.” Find it on the website natural resources dot house dot gov. Read it and weep.
Bishop has gutted and grilled the ideas of the 1965 congress. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, now misnamed, would be used for several other federal enterprises. Specifically his bill would set up a whole new federal bureaucracy dedicated to the study and promotion of offshore oil and gas enterprises.
Read about it and weep.
Then hope and pray that other voices in Congress will rise, to resuscitate the Land and Water Conservation Act for another half-century of blessings.