Opinion: Congress Can Save our Forests Through Land and Water Conservation Fund
The magnificent forests of the Pacific Northwest are a vital part of Washington’s communities. From our grand Douglas Fir stands to the ferns that cover our valley floors, these places reflect who we are as a region while providing an abundance of riches: including places to hike and camp, natural benefits like clean water and air, and supporting Washington’s economy.
The?Dewatto?Headwaters Forest in the hills above Hood Canal has been a working forest for well over 100 years,?supporting the local economy with?high quality wood products,?keeping?rivers cool for salmon?and?providing recreation opportunities.
Pope Resources and Kitsap County joined with the Trust for Public Land and other local community partners in an effort to keep this forest intact and working – supporting the local community and ensuring the health of our region.
Funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been critical in this effort to protect the Dewatto Headwaters Forest in perpetuity through a working forest conservation easement – and we’re far from done. Without funding from LWCF, these lands would likely be turned into residential development, eliminating public access and damaging critical salmon habitat, while eliminating a source of working forest jobs.
For over a half century, money from LWCF has been used to create parks, protect wildlife habitat, and preserve public access to public lands in every county in the United States, without any costs to taxpayers. Instead, funding comes from offshore oil and gas royalties, which are reinvested in the protection of land. LWCF was famously championed by former Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson of Washington.
When LWCF was created, Congress intended $900 million in offshore oil and gas royalties to be invested into protecting our outdoor legacy across the nation each year. But that promise has been broken, and funding continues to be diverted each year to unknown uses, unrelated to land conservation.
Until the LWCF is fully and permanently funded by congress, communities like ours are limited in their overall ability to create vital working forests, parks and open space. At the current rate of funding, the Dewatto Headwaters Forest project will ultimately take 8 years to complete, creating uncertainty for Pope Resources and Kitsap County, while preventing other worthy projects from being completed.
Full and dedicated funding for LWCF is vital to ensure the consistency and transparency that private landowners need, and to protect working forests, open space and public lands in Washington.
Luckily, bipartisan groups of lawmakers in both the House and Senate have introduced legislation to fully fund the program in perpetuity.
Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Congressman Derek Kilmer have all been fearless champions for this program, and we thank them for their continued commitment to conservation and our local communities. But, the job is not finished. Today, we need all of them to once again step up and prioritize working decisively with their colleagues to get LWCF full funding enacted into law.
The untapped potential of America’s best conservation program will remain just that — untapped — unless Congress fully funds it, thereby ensuring future generations will benefit from LWCF.
By: Robert Gelder and Jon Rose
Source: Kitsap Sun
Next Article Previous Article