Passage of bills would ensure viability of LWCF

No federal program protecting natural areas and assisting local and state recreation projects has had the reach and the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Thousands of individual initiatives- some probably affecting you and your family directly — have been assisted by the LWCF.

Throughout the Northern Panhandle and East Ohio, dozens of parks, municipal swimming pools, war memorials and assorted recreation areas have received LWCF money.

Projects ranging from local recreation to state parks in West Virginia have benefited from more than $243 million in LWCF assistance. The total is even higher for Ohio, at more than $340 million.

Yet the fund, established by Congress in 1964, has lived a perilous existence. It is subject to periodic reauthorizations and annual hat-in-hand requests to keep the money flowing.

Earlier this year, Congress voted to reauthorize the LWCF. Now, however, the question of funding is up again.

In April, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, introduced a bill (S1081) to grant the fund at least some permanency. His measure, now with bipartisan support from 41 cosponsors, would ensure the program receives $900 million a year — without the need for annual battles over appropriations.

A similar measure (HR3195) has been introduced in the House of Representatives. Already, it has 10 cosponsors, both Republican and Democrat.

It is clear from the bipartisan nature of early support for both bills that this is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue. It is simply a matter of ensuring that a vitally important federal program remains not just in existence, but also funded adequately to do the important work in which it has engaged for more than half a century.

Still, politics being the messy activity that it is, even bills that are obviously important sometimes fall through the cracks or are held hostage to partisan bickering.

That should not be allowed to happen with S1081 and HR 3195. Lawmakers of both parties should ensure the bills are high on the agenda for action in the Senate and House of Representatives — and are enacted.

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