As the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) program celebrates its 50th Anniversary, U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell visited western North Carolina to celebrate the positive economic impacts and successes of the program.
LWCF is the only federal program dedicated to the continued conservation of our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness, civil war battlefields, as well as creating and developing state and local parks. In western North Carolina LWCF has helped conserve treasured places such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, Chimney Rock State Park, and French Broad River Park and Greenway.
"President Johnson and a bipartisan Congress got it right when they established the Land and Water Conservation Fund, embracing the simple concept that when we take something from the earth - namely, oil and gas from public lands offshore - we should return something back to the earth by investing in our land, water and wildlife heritage," said Sally Jewell in the Department of Interior media advisory. "Fifty years later, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has made huge economic contributions to local communities in every state, helping to establish local parks, protect clean water sources and create jobs through outdoor recreation. As we look to the next 50 years, we need to ensure that we continue this great legacy by fully and permanently funding this innovative program."
LWCF is funded using a small portion of revenues from federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf, not taxpayer dollars. Though it has played a vital role in boosting local economies across the country, it is set to expire in 2015 without action from Congress. North Carolina Senator Richard Burr joined Secretary Jewell at events on Wednesday. The Republican Senator has been a strong supporter of LWCF and sponsored legislation to fully fund and reauthorize the program.
"We are blessed with great beauty in western North Carolina, with some of the oldest mountains in the world and clean drinking water, so clean in fact the second and third largest craft brewers in the USA decided to make WNC their east coast headquarters" stated Karen Cragnolin, executive director of RiverLink. . "Funding from LWCF helps ensure that our natural assets and the jobs they create are available to benefit North Carolinian's for generations to come."
The Outdoor Industry Association has found that active outdoor recreation generates $19.2 billion annually in consumer spending in North Carolina, supports 192,000 jobs across the state that generate $5.6 billion in wages and salaries and produces $1.3 billion annually in state and local tax revenue.
Cragnolin also said, "We are witnessing the rebirth of the French Broad River and it is truly an economic miracle, authentic to our heritage and an environmental treasure for all of WNC as a destination for everyone to live, work and play. Former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt visited the French Broad at RiverLink's invitation and sang its praises along with Wilma Dykeman at French Broad River Park after he floated the river."
Jewell's visit is part of a series of events the Administration is holding across the country to celebrate this important program. She will visit Indiana, New Mexico and Arizona later in the week to emphasize the fund's role in establishing urban parks and refuges that connect city dwellers, especially young people, to the great outdoors.
Join RiverLink today and help keep the French Broad clean, drinkable, swimmable, fishable and accessible for today and for all the tomorrows to come