January 30, 2012

Why Does the Land & Water Conservation Fund Matter to South Gate?

Presione aquí para leer la nota en español.

In his lifetime, Teddy Roosevelt wore the hat of soldier, president and founder of America's conservation movement. Like Roosevelt, I am a soldier and also a conservationist. In recent years I have been concerned with what I am seeing unfold in Washington, D.C. One of the many issues that troubles me is the legislative assault on our public lands and the inability of Congress to fully fund the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

LWCF is a federal program that was established in 1964. The goal of the program is to provide matching grants and funds for local, state and federal governments. The funding is used to develop infrastructure such as outdoor recreation areas and facilities in places such as our nation's parks and other public lands. The fund is also used to acquire new lands from private holders. Just to name a few, LWCF has been used to enhance national parks such as the Grand Canyon as well as national forests like our beloved Angeles. Ball fields, trails and community parks in our own neighborhoods have also benefited from this program.

LWCF receives no taxpayer funding. The program is funded exclusively by energy companies, through $900 million in royalties on oil and gas leases in the Outer Continental Shelf. Sadly, Congress continues to divert money from this fund each year for uses on other projects that have nothing to do with conserving America's parks and rivers. Over the past four decades LWCF has only seen full funding on two occasions.

LWCF is also a job creator. The Outdoor Foundation estimates that $730 billion is spent on activities related to fishing, skiing, hunting and hiking. This also supports 6.5 million jobs in the United States. Furthermore, it is estimated that over $13 billion is seen by towns adjacent to recreation areas which supports over 250,000 private sector jobs, according to a study by the National Parks Conservation Association. By promoting outdoor recreation LWCF is a key driver of this stimulus.

Today, our public lands and parks also serve our veterans. As an Iraq war veteran, I understand how hard the adjustment phase is for many of our soldiers. I am speaking, of course, to their transition back into civilian life. Many of our soldiers are Wounded Warriors. These are men and women who have seen the battlefield and often have scars. Some of these scars are invisible. However, one thing that is always there for these soldiers is nature and its beauty can often bring peace.

Many programs for veterans are now available that foster participation in outdoor activities.  One of these programs is Healing Waters. It serves our veterans by teaching them how to fly fish. Programs such as these are invaluable to veterans and lands served by LWCF often serve as their foundation.

It is clear that LWCF can make a difference in the lives of veterans. Be it through providing handicap accessible access to a stream so that one of our Wounded Warriors can cast a line or adding an easement so that a military family can access and enjoy a day together at a local park, the benefits of this program are tangible. These are America's bravest and they deserve the best. We owe a debt to them and funding programs such as LWCF clearly adds to their quality of life.

America must care for its public lands and LWCF is a mechanism for providing this. These are lands that cannot protect themselves. This means that as responsible citizens we must. Teddy Roosevelt would expect nothing less.

Mario Rivas
Bell, CA
Member, Vet Voice Foundation

Editor's Note:

Funds from LWCF have been used for the improvement of parks in the City of South Gate during the late seventies to mid-eighties. The earliest grant was approved in 1978 and totaled $363, 832 for Hollydale Park, while the second was in 1983 amounting to $50,400 for South Gate Recreational Park. The latest funding totaled $266,548 for South Gate Park and was given out in 1985. 



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