National Park Funding
Beards Hollow was a Washington State Parks acquisition made possible with a grant of $397,750 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Source: shutterbug.com

September is a critical month for continued federal funding for local, state, and federal parks throughout the country and the Pacific Northwest. This month the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is set to expire and, as always, Congress is divided over the future of this critical fund. The dived puts current and future National Park funding at risk.

The LWCF uses fees from offshore drilling to support park development programs like purchasing park land, building infrastructure, and maintenance. The popular Pacific Crest Trail of Wild fame has been a beneficiary of the fund throughout the years. However, from 2011 to 2014 approximately 58 percent of the funding went toward non-federal projects. In Washington the fund has been used all over the state from Mount Rainier to Gas Works Park in Seattle. While everyone agrees that these projects are needed, Congress has been raiding the fund for years leaving it significantly underfunded and at the end of the month, without Congressional intervention, the fund will expire all together.

National Park Funding
According to the Center for Western Priorities, the Arboretum Waterfront Trail was developed with a $45,900 grant from the LWCF in 1966. Source: seattlebloggers.com

The Sierra Club and businesses like REI, Patagonia, and Black Diamond that comprise the Outdoor Industry Association are joining forces with nonprofits like the Center for Western Priorities to lobby Congress and bring attention for the need of continued funding and renewal of the program. The Center for Western Priorities argues that the fund does not only make good sense for the health and well-being of Americans, but also good economic sense since for every dollar spent by the LWCF creates four dollars in economic benefit. On the other side of the coin, some lawmakers think the fund has been used to expand federal control over state resources. These legislators want state governments to be free to develop the land for other purposes and oppose renewal of the LWCF.

National Park Funding
The Yakima Greenway has more than 18 miles of paved pathway, as well as parks, fishing lakes, picnic areas, playgrounds, and river access landings, along with protected and natural areas. The development project received $67,750 from the LWCF in 1984. Source: yakimagreenway.org

In Washington over 500 projects have been funded since the program began in 1965. To put this into perspective, these are the parks we take out kids to everyday, places we seek out on the weekend to find some quantum of solace from our busy lives, and the places we go to get back in touch with our wild and human self. A real challenge is to scan the list of projects that includes the development of the Arboretum Waterfront Trail in Seattle to the Wellpinit Playfield in Spokane and decide, if not for this fund, which of these sites should disappear.

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