Wasatch Environmental Update for June 24, 2018
By John Worlock
“The Land and Water Conservation Act of 1965”
Half a century ago, in a more blissful age, Congress passed the Land and Water Conservation Act, offering federal dollars to states and municipalities for help in providing recreational facilities for their citizens. Additional money was offered to federal agencies for the purchase of inholdings and for other improvements to parks, monument and wildlife preserves. Over the years, close to 20 billion dollars have been appropriated and spent, and we’ve been happy with the results.
For example, looking around in Utah, we find that overwhelmingly the projects have involved urban improvements, such as the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, and local authorities have had to match the federal contributions. One the other hand, somewhat more than half of the money, nationally, has been spent on land acquisitions.
And there lies a problem that threatens to end the life of the benevolent act. Utah’s Congressman Rob Bishop, chair of the powerful natural resources committee, is opposed the renewal of the act. He is on record as opposing any more federal land in the western states. The Land and Water Conservation Act would have naturally expired in the summer of 2015. However, it was resuscitated by an adroit parliamentary move that avoided Bishop’s committee, but was able to add only three more years. So it faces expiration this summer.
Please would someone go and talk sense with Rob Bishop.
First point: he is singlehandedly and single-mindedly opposing the wishes of the vast majority of the American people. There are bipartisan bills in both houses of Congress that would sail though to easy passage if they were brought to a vote. One of them has sat in Bishop’s inbox for a year and a half, gathering cosponsors of both parties. Another sits at the portal of the equivalent Senate committee, where there is no point in holding hearings as long as Bishop is adamant.
Second point: The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been especially beneficial to Utah, with parks and playgrounds springing up all along the Wasatch Front. And Bishop’s congressional district was itself a regular beneficiary.
The Land and Water Conservation Coalition is gearing up to mount a campaign for renewal of the Fund, which, alas, can’t wait for midterm elections in November. So we wish them godspeed!