From The Aspen Times (David O. Williams):
Colorado’s U.S. senators said this week they will both fight hard for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund despite the Trump administration’s plans to gut the program that’s pumped more than $268 million into the state for parks, ball fields, trails and open space.
“Congress finally secures LWCF for future generations, and the administration turns around and tries to cut its funding. This is exactly why Coloradans are so frustrated with Washington,” Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet told the Vail Daily on Tuesday via a spokeswoman.
Bennet was referring to the signing last week of the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act (formerly the Natural Resources Management Act) by President Donald Trump — the day after the White House released a proposed 2020 budget with deep cuts to the LWCF and other public lands programs…
Established by Congress in 1965, the LWCF uses offshore drilling lease fees to develop parks, wildlife refuges and recreational facilities on federal, state and local lands. It also funds additions and upgrades to national parks, forests and other public lands, including projects in western Colorado. Trump’s budget would reportedly slash LWCF funding by 95 percent…
State groups dependent on the funding would love to see an end to the annual budget battle for the program, which is now permanently reauthorized and collecting money from drilling operations.
“I struggle with that; I struggle with the whole (funding) concept, not just LWCF but the Forest Service and BLM budgets as a whole,” said Scott Jones, chairman of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s State Recreational Trails Committee. “When Land and Water Conservation Fund money went away, the non-motorized side of the state trails program almost disappeared. It would have been less than a million bucks a year, and that was going to be a big problem.”
The ongoing construction of the Continental Divide Trail depends on LWCF money, particularly in areas where there’s no nearby federally owned public land. In those cases, proponents of the trail use LWCF funds to acquire private land for the trail.
In a statement, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition blasted the president’s “drastic cuts to LWCF,” which the coalition argued “undermined White House claims of support for the program.”
Teresa Martinez, executive director of the Golden-based CDTC, celebrated the renewal of the program but said it’s time to “get back to work to fight to ensure strong funding for LWCF.”