By DALE THREATT-TAYLOR
A long-awaited victory for conservation, communities and South Carolina is nearly in our grasp. For more than 55 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has protected land, improved county parks, preserved cultural sites and increased public access across all 50 states.
Like many federal programs, it faced budget cuts during the Great Recession. But the bipartisan program came back strong in 2019, when legislators on both sides of the aisle voted to make it permanent.
Now, one important task remains. LWCF is a dedicated fund, and a dedicated fund can only work if the funds in it are spent as intended. We need to fully fund LWCF with the money collected for that purpose, instead of redirecting it to other projects.
None of the usual objections to government programs apply to LWCF. Its resources come from oil and gas royalties, not taxpayer pockets. Its impact is highly trackable in acres protected, parks built, cultural sites preserved and trails opened to the public. It’s supported by both Democrats and Republicans, and our South Carolina delegation has led the effort in both chambers.
In South Carolina, LWCF has helped create, improve or open additional acres to public access at:
- Saluda Shoals Park
- North Augusta Riverfront Greenway
- Guignard Park
- Congaree National Park
- Fort Sumter National Monument
So, what’s the holdup? Busy legislative schedules, competing priorities and time. But the time is now: the Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act on June 17, and a companion bill (HR 7092) will soon be up for a vote in the House. To our South Carolina representatives, let’s get this done. Pass the Great American Outdoors Act and send it to the President’s desk.
Dale Threatt-Taylor is executive director for The Nature Conservancy in South Carolina.