As summer winds down and fades into fall, many of us enjoy this time of year to get outdoors to hike, hunt and fish. For me, it's elk hunting on public lands in southwest Colorado's wild San Juan Mountains.
It's important to understand that many of these special places were made possible by a law passed nearly 50 years ago. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was created with the purpose of reinvesting money from offshore drilling projects to aid in the maintenance and protection of our country's natural resources.
Throughout its history, the LWCF has protected land in every state and supported over 41,000 park projects. Hunters, anglers and other outdoorsmen and women are thankful that they can take their children to hunt, fish and hike in places like the Ophir Valley of the Uncompahgre National Forest, Great Sand Dunes National Park, and the wildlife refuge complex of the San Luis Valley. These are all past beneficiaries of LWCF in Colorado. Because of these protected places, Colorado's 919,000 hunters and anglers invest $1.36 billion in our communities and support 18,693 local jobs.
Each year the government is supposed to set aside $900 million for LWCF projects, but often those funds are taken away and spent on unrelated projects. In the program's history, the government has diverted more than $17.5 billion.
And now, for the first time in the program's successful 50-year history, the House of Representatives is proposing to eliminate all funding for a program that has benefited the entire nation. These cuts would do real, irreversible damage to the wild places and wide open spaces hunters and anglers and all Americans care about.
I urge Congress to keep their promise to the American people and fight for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
David A. Lien
Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers