Washington recreation sites await Obama's 'Conservation Promise'
Portions of the Pacific Crest Trail have been made possible by grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This is a view of the Ritter Range in the Ansel Adams Wilderness in California.
SEATTLE - One aspect of President Barack Obama's new budget proposal that hasn't gotten much attention is his recommendation to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
Congress routinely raids the LWCF for purposes other than those for which it was intended. The money is mostly collected from offshore oil and gas fees and is supposed to be used to improve outdoor recreation and preserve public land and water resources.
Hannah Clark, LWCF campaign director for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, said the president also wants Congress to stop diverting the money.
"Even though this fund was intended as a trust fund, it never has actually been a true trust fund," she explained. "That is why this president's budget is so exciting - because it provides full funding and also supports the idea of dedicated funding for the LWCF."
She noted, however, that the president has recommended full funding since 2010, and it hasn't happened. This year is the 50th anniversary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and only once has it received its full allocation of $900 million.
Sportsmen in the Northwest have plenty of priorities for LWCF money. Brian Jennings, sportsmen's outreach coordinator for the group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said it's often used to purchase private land to gain access to some prime spots for fishing, hunting and hiking, which ends up benefiting local towns' economy.
"What this fund does is it helps fuel that (economy) - it helps provide those jobs, it helps get people to the outdoors, better. It leads to more recreation. It helps guides; it helps the outfitters," Jennings said.
Organizations and agencies with dozens of Washington projects have applied for this year's LWCF funding and are lined up, all waiting to see how much will be available and whether they will make the cut.