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  Comments (7) Total Thursday Apr. 17, 2014
LETTER: Criticism of LWCF is Off Base
Dave Skinner's article concerning a potential national monument in eastern Montana (Sept. 15 Beacon: “Brainstorming Rural Cleansing”) implies that full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a vast government conspiracy to take over private land. I read Skinner's article while flying to D.C. to ask our congressional delegation to support full funding for LWCF. Let me fill in some important facts about LWCF that Mr. Skinner omitted. It is not a new tax. LWCF has been around for 45 years but has seen sporadic and unreliable funding. LWCF is funded from federal offshore oil and gas leases. The idea is that offshore drilling causes environmental harm and should be offset by conservation work around the country. The BP oil spill supports this argument and invigorated the drive for full and reliable LWCF funding.

A portion of LWCF funds are allocated to federal agencies while the rest are allocated to the states. In Montana the state money is allocated based on a competitive grant process, good old American competition. Many grants are highly specialized tools, restricted to a single a purpose such as forestry or pedestrian trail construction. LWCF is a very general tool. It is like having an adjustable wrench. It has been widely used in Montana to purchase park land and infrastructure improvements to park land such as baseball fields, football and soccer fields, tennis courts and playground equipment.

Almost every municipality and county in Montana has relied on LWCF for these purposes. Many of the fishing access sites in Montana received funding assistance from LWCF. Our own Rails to Trails from Kalispell to Kila used an LWCF grant to purchase right of way and it has more that needs to be purchased in its quest to extend the trail to Libby. A fully funded LWCF can be used to purchase private in-holdings in Glacier National Park from willing sellers. It can be used to assist Flathead Land Trust in securing conservation easements along the Flathead River and Flathead Lake so family farms remain in the family and critical riparian areas are protected. It can be used by Foys to Blacktail to expand Herron Park to 440 acres and build a 15-mile hiking trail system minutes from Kalispell.

It is obvious that Mr. Skinner dislikes national monuments but that is no reason to condemn LWCF. It is an important tool that can be very useful to the Flathead if it is fully funded.

Jim Watson


On 09-30-10, SpringBrookRanch commented....
The government doesn’t need LWCF to create a National Monument. The President has the authority to simply declare one without asking anyone’s permission. I agree with Mr. Skinner that for a President to do this is bad manners. I strongly support open public process and debate, it is how our…
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