Letter: Not funding public lands is simply unacceptable | VailDaily.com

Letter: Not funding public lands is simply unacceptable

The GoPro Mountain Games and the Western Governors’ Association are holding back-to-back events in Vail. Funny enough, the two events are more connected than you’d imagine.

Kayaking, mountain biking and bouldering are the focus of the GoPro Games. The same land and water stewardship issues will surely be discussed at the governors’ meeting. Why? One of the keynote speakers is U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, and a vitally important program he oversees is the Land and Water Conservation Fund, our country’s best conservation and recreation program.

For more than fifty years, LWCF has funded America’s great outdoors and our access to it, including federal public lands, state and local parks, and other outdoor places. Here in Colorado, this program has funded conservation projects in the White River National Forest, Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, and much more.

We’re guessing that the Secretary will get an earful about the importance of this program. LWCF should receive $900 million a year, but the administration’s proposed budget for 2020 all but zeroes out funding, and that’s simply not acceptable.

Western states have profoundly felt the benefits of LWCF. Attending governors at the conference include those from Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, New Mexico and Nevada. Combined, these states have received nearly $1.6 billion in LWCF funding. That adds up to a huge amount of protected lands, improved access to the outdoors, and a significant boost for state economies.

Between kayakers and climbers and the economic opportunity that these industries bring to our state, it’s fitting that Vail hosts both events. Here’s hoping the combined message of the two events is that we need to invest in our public lands. We need a fully funded Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Kristine Oblock, Clean Water Advocate

Environment Colorado