Duluth News Tribune: Local view: Land and Water Conservation Fund a bipartisan success
In the 1960s, our nation vigorously debated the pros and cons of offshore oil and gas drilling. Industry arguments favored offshore drilling as a way to reduce our dependency on imported energy. Opponents argued that any spills could be catastrophic. Industry proponents won the debate, and we’ve been drilling offshore ever since.
However, as a result of that debate, Congress passed legislation known as the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It was proposed as a source of money from the revenue produced from offshore drilling to make investments in conservation projects like land and water protections and opportunities for outdoor recreation.
The legislation creating the fund authorized $900 million annually for conservation projects all across the country. Minnesota and Wisconsin have benefitted repeatedly from this source of money for very important conservation projects. Examples of our regional benefits include about $237 million invested over the past four decades in places like Voyageurs National Park, the St. Croix National Scenic River and Minnesota’s beloved Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Money from the fund also provided a small role when Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Trails and Waterways purchased 22,500 acres from Minnesota Power, protecting these lands — including 185 miles of shoreline along the St. Louis, Cloquet and Whiteface rivers — for future generations.
Unfortunately, the Land and Water Conservation Fund — which was scheduled to expire on Sept. 30 if it wasn’t reauthorized by Congress — got caught up in the rancor and partisanship of the federal budget debate. Its reauthorization was not included in the recent short-term budget agreement that prevented another government shutdown.
Most of us applaud avoiding another shutdown. However, we cannot afford to permanently lose the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Please write House members supporting its reauthorization. Congressman Rick Nolan of Minnesota’s 8th District was one of the first to indicate keen disappointment that the fund was a victim of the partisan rancor. He is leading a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the fund. We support his leadership in this attempt to fashion a bipartisan majority to reauthorize this very valuable conservation tool for all of us in Minnesota and across the country.