EDITORIAL: Conservation is a wise investment
We live in a remarkable part of the country with unparalleled natural beauty. The access we have to the wild lands of the North Cascades is highly valued by the people who live in North Central Washington, regardless of their political persuasion.
Access to the outdoors and to parks is not only a great economic asset — and that includes not just tourism but also as a catalyst for professionals who want to locate their businesses close to nature — but it also makes our communities more livable.
And a significant factor in protecting land and water resources, providing access to outdoor recreation and preservation of our unique natural assets has been the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The dollars don’t come from taxpayers. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is based on a simple idea: that a portion of offshore oil and gas drilling fees should be used to protect important land and water for all Americans. Funding conservation and recreation through a fee on resource extraction makes a good deal of sense.
That’s why it is imperative that Congress reauthorize the LWCF prior to September, 2015, when it is set to expire. Maintaining and enhancing our natural resources is critically important across the country. Recent polling found that voters think this is more important than ever in the light of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Places for recreation are more important than ever these days to our communities. Human beings need that respite from the frenetic pace of the world today. Outdoor recreation is an important part of the Washington economy. The Outdoor Industry Association has found that active outdoor recreation contributes more than $11.7 billion annually to Washington’s economy, supports 115,000 jobs across the state, generates $650 million in annual state tax revenues, and produces $8.5 billion annually in retail sales and services across Washington.
Thanks to the efforts of Rep. Dave Reichert and others, the House this week passed legislation that would fund the program at the $306 million level. That’s good news because there had been a push to cut the level of funding.
The Senate is currently considering the issue and there is concern that it won’t be fully funded. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have signed on in support of reauthorization of this program.
Those of us in North Central Washington in particular can the see the positive impact of the fund.LWCF funding protected a significant amount of the Colockum Wildlife area, for example. There are many others, such as funding for Lake Wenatchee State Park, Singleton Park in Manson, Camas Meadows, and Eastmont Community Park.
The sense of place that we have in our region is extraordinary. Fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund permanently will enhance the precious resources here, and continue providing recreational opportunities for all citizens.
When it was created 50 years ago, under the leadership of Washington Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the LWCF was authorized at $900 million.
Funding of at least $306 million is vitally important to continue the work that is essential to North Central Washington and the rest of the country.
Rufus Woods is publisher of The Wenatchee World.