Last week President Trump signed a historic bipartisan bill to protect the environment. With the stroke of a pen the Natural Resources Management Act has been passed! The bill passed in the Senate, 92-8, and then in the House, 363-62, before landing on the President's desk. This bipartisan action permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and creates six new national parks service units, five new national monuments, and almost 700,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas. It also expands some parks, establishes new protections for wildlife habitats, blocks mining near some national parks, and designates 1.3 million acres of “wilderness area” - the most stringent classification, which prohibits any development or motor vehicle travel.
The LWCF is a historically bipartisan program that has funded conservation projects in all 50 states since 1964 and had expired September 30, 2018. It is America’s most important conservation program, supporting everything from the expansion and maintenance of local parks and recreation centers to national forests, national parks and historical sites. A few notable beneficiaries are projects in the Grand Canyon, Smoky Mountain and Yosemite National Parks.
Closer to home, the program’s funding has contributed to outdoor spots such as the Bigelow Preserve, the Allagash Waterway and Range Pond State Park. These locations are significant recreational and ecological lands for Maine. Since 1965, a total of 831 projects have been funded by LWFC in Maine totaling just under $41 million in awarded grants. These beautiful natural places and spaces where communities can come together are integral to our identity -- they’re part of what make us proud to call ourselves Mainers.
Hunting, fishing, outdoor recreation, conservation and historic preservation are all important parts of Maine’s heritage. As our late President Theodore Roosevelt said, “There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm.” One of his first times in the wilderness was backpacking in the North Woods of Maine and hiking Mount Katahdin. As an avid hunter and outdoorsman, he created five new parks during his administration, the first national monument (along with 17 others), four national game refuges, 51 bird sanctuaries and over 100 million acres of national forest.
Permanently reauthorizing the LWCF will allow future generations to experience and marvel at the natural beauties of our country. Our national parks and forests have a special place in all our hearts. I still remember my first time visiting the Allagash - the beauty was breathtaking, I had never been so awe-struck before. That feeling alone makes it worth preserving the LWCF. That is why it was so reassuring that this program received broad, bipartisan support - showing that we can come together as a nation to protect the land and waters that sustain us.