Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Idaho Senators Speak Up for Land and Water Conservation

By Will Whelan, director of government relations 

Our ears perk up whenever we hear that a bipartisan majority of United States senators has come to an agreement on an important issue – particularly when it involves conservation.  

We were particularly pleased to learn that 51 senators recently sent a letter asking their colleagues to provide strong and consistent funding for a program that has protected many of Idaho’s most prized landscapes, such as the Sawtooth Valley, South Fork of the Snake, Boise Foothills, City of Rocks, Hells Canyon, and Lake Coeur d’Alene.  

Senator Mike Crapo and Senator Jim Risch both signed the letter supporting the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and have earned our heartfelt thanks.

The LWCF Act of 1964 directs that a portion of the nation’s revenues from outer continental shelf oil and gas leases be used to acquire new public lands and conservation easements in places with extraordinary wildlife, scenic and recreation values. LWCF has also funded the Forest Legacy Program, which secures conservation easements on private forest lands with value for wildlife and sustaining local economies.  LWCF is a pillar of the nation’s commitment to conservation.

So, it is no small thing when our Idaho senators express support for this essential conservation program. The senators’ letter explains that LWCF – and the economic, health, and environmental benefits it produces – have earned it huge public support:

Despite a history of underfunding, LWCF remains the premier federal program to conserve our nation’s land, water, historic and recreational heritage.  LWCF and Forest Legacy provide a diverse array of conservation tools….  These include working lands easements that allow farmers and ranchers to continue to act as stewards of the landscape that sustains their livelihoods and working forest projects through Forest Legacy keeping critical timberlands forested and accessible and providing jobs in rural communities.

The companion LWCF state grants program provides crucial support for state and local park acquisitions, recreational facilities, and trail corridors.  The LWCF stateside program has funded over 41,000 projects … in all fifty states.

The Nature Conservancy made sustaining the Land and Water Conservation Fund one of its top legislative priorities. We appreciate the support of Senator Crapo and Senator Risch.

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