HARRISBURG, Pa. – A federal program vital to conservation efforts in Pennsylvania expired last month, but there’s bipartisan support for its permanent authorization.
Since 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has brought $315 million to support more than 1,500 projects in the Keystone State, preserving monuments such as Valley Forge and building local recreation areas.
But Congress has frequently failed to spend money from the fund and missed the Sept. 30 deadline for its reauthorization.
According to John Walliser, senior vice president for legal and government affairs for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, a bill to save the fund has broad bipartisan support.
“We have the majority of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation signed on to legislation that would permanently reauthorize the fund, and also fully appropriate it,” he points out.
Bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate that could restore and preserve the Land and Water Conservation Fund for years to come.
Walliser stresses support for reauthorization extends well beyond the congressional delegations.
“You’re seeing the outfitters, the guides, the recreational community, the hunters and the anglers,” he points out. “Even local governments and neighborhood associations are coming out in support of this.”
Walliser says he is confident that legislation reauthorizing the fund will be signed into law by the end of this year.
To illustrate the impact of the fund, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council prepared a map of sites across the state that have benefited.
Walliser says the results surprised even him.
“My local neighborhood park where my son runs cross country, where he has his meets, that was actually funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and I never even knew that,” he states.
House Resolution 502, which would permanently reauthorize the fund, is cosponsored by 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional representatives.