Federal lands funds will help Vail Valley projects
Land and Water Conservation Fund helps projects big and small
EAGLE — Eight Eagle County projects are part of a massive federal lands bill passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. Senate.
At least as important as the projects, local conservationists say the Natural Resources Management Act permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has been expired since Sept. 30.
“Even when this hugely successful program was falling victim to Washington’s partisan dysfunction, senators Gardner and Bennet never stopped working to secure its passage,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “We deeply appreciate their unflagging commitment to investing in Colorado’s public lands and outdoor recreation.”
Projects big and small
For more than half a century, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped secure outdoor recreation opportunities by using money from federal offshore energy revenue to conserve lands, water and open space.
Liberal lawmakers are happy because the fund allows agencies to set aside land for wildlife habitat. Conservatives are happy because taxpayers don’t have to pay for it.
The LWCF helps fund everything from national parks and wildlife preserves to projects like a tennis court in Eagle, a Dowd Junction trail for Vail and a community park in Red Cliff.
The fund has invested more than $268 million in Colorado, helping fund boat launches on the Colorado River, the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
However, the Natural Resources Management Act still leaves the LWCF without guaranteed forever funding.
“We still need to fully fund LWCF and we will continue working toward that end. But permanent authorization is an enormous accomplishment for all who have worked tirelessly on this issue,” said Scott Willoughby, Colorado field coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “In addition to LWCF, this legislation includes dozens of bipartisan provisions across the country that will help sustain our public land heritage.”
The Senate passed the 662-page measure 92-8, the product of deal-making and compromise.
“This is one of the most important pieces of public lands legislation in recent memory and we urge the House to quickly pass this bill,” Willoughby said.
The bill also makes all federal lands open to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting unless otherwise specified.
The package now heads to the House of Representatives.