National and State of West Virginia conservation and recreation groups have requested that legislators permanently reauthorize theLand and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and not to allow the LWCF to expire on September 30. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
LWCF has supported “wild and wonderful” icons of West Virginia like the Monongahela National Forest, New River Gorge National River, Gauley River National Recreation Area, Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Harpers Ferry Natural Historical Park, our state park system and was essential in securing additional public access in the Spruce Knob – Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. Since the inception of the LWCF, $11.2 billion has been made available to federal public lands, more than $225 million in West Virginia and over $4.7 billion has been made available to state and local governments to fund more than 43,000 conservation projects throughout the nation, approximately $50 million to West Virginia. LWCF helps fund local projects that contribute to our everyday quality of life in our Mountain State.
Those successes have come despite the fact that the LWCF has been raided, nearly every year, since its creation. The original goal of distributing $900 million to the states for conservation and recreation has been met only twice in the 52-year history of the Fund. Some $19 billion earmarked for the LWCF, money belonging to the American people, and meant to be used for American communities and public lands, have been diverted to other uses.
This is not a dead issue. A permanently reauthorized LWCF must be established, with no more diversion of desperately-needed public money. Our future, and that of our children, depends upon our action right now. Please continue to contact our legislators requesting that they support permanent reauthorization of LWCF before they adjourn.
It is interesting to note that on page two of “Fighting to Protect the Highlands: The First Forty Years of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy”, Lou Greathouse of the West Virginia Recreational Society and listed as one of the individuals at the first meeting of the people who would eventually become the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy was developing the first Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan in West Virginia spurred on by a requirement in the federal Land and Water Conservation Act of 1965. More about that project is included on the following pages. I searched, without success, for the 1965 plan, but a copy of the 2015-2020 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan can be found at: