Colorado Editorials

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel: Save the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Author: The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Editorial Board - August 16, 2018 - Updated: August 16, 2018

After returning to his family home in the shadow of Pikes Peak, Garett Reppenhagen retreated to the outdoors to reflect on his experience as an Army sniper in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle.

“Without the solace and serenity of our public lands I never would have survived the transition,” he said.

Today Reppenhagen is the Rocky Mountain West coordinator for the Vet Voice Foundation, which is an unrelenting supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Veterans share a strong connection with the outdoors and the foundation members view protecting public lands as a patriotic duty.

The LWCF is arguably the most successful conservation and recreation program in the nation’s history, providing more than $17 billion for states and communities to invest in outdoor recreation resources.

Since 1964, LWCF has a used a portion of federal offshore energy revenues to conserve lands, water and open spaces and provide matching funds to state and local governments to build trails, parks and recreational amenities — all at no cost to taxpayers. But it’s set to expire by Sept. 30 unless Congress acts to save it.

As Colorado’s U.S. senators — Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner — pointed out in a recent op-ed, LWCF has invested more than $268 million in Colorado, leading to the protection of iconic landscapes like Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and lesser-known gems like the Ophir Valley in the San Juan Mountains.

For a state where the great outdoors represents a sizable chunk of the economy, the LWCF is an indispensable tool to protect and grow that resource.

“Put simply, LWCF works,” the senators wrote. “It is a time-tested and effective way to boost the economy and increase tourism in an industry responsible for $28 billion in consumer spending and 229,000 direct jobs in our state.”

The two senators have co-sponsored legislation that would permanently reauthorize the program and prevent the chipping away of its funding every year.

What they didn’t say in their op-ed is that Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who oversees the program, poses a threat to the program.

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The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Editorial Board