COLUMBUS – The future of some conservation projects in Ohio hangs in the balance as Congress debates the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The program has been around for 50 years and expired at the end of September. It helps to protect and preserve public land, including the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Matt Misicka, vice president with the Ohio Conservation Federation, says the fund is a great example of how Ohio communities and the federal government are working very well together.

“It requires a lot of buy-in and a lot of agreement among the partnerships involved,” says Misicka. “It’s an opportunity for matching funds to help do some bigger public projects.”

Funding for the program would be cut under a proposal from Utah Republican Congressman Rob Bishop, which sets limits and restricts LWCF funding. A Senate proposal calls for permanent and full re-authorization of the program.

Misicka points out Bishop’s proposal in the House has no bipartisan support, unlike the Senate plan. And he hopes a compromise is reached so forests, parks, and conservation projects don’t suffer.

“We hear over and over that there really isn’t a whole lot of debate,” he says. “That this is a very, very bipartisan support since its inception 50 years ago up through now we get a lot of Republicans and Democrats that see the value in this.”

Since 1965, the fund has provided nearly $329 million to Ohio. Joy Mullinex, government relations director with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, explains it’s helped to build the state’s $17 billion outdoor recreation economy.

“That’s 196,000 jobs every year,” says Mullinex. “So it’s not just about a small group of parks benefiting from this. This is a statewide economic driver.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is funded from offshore oil and gas royalties, not taxpayer dollars.

Cuyahoga Valley National park benefits from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Valley National park benefits from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

By Mary Kuhlman

Ohio News Connection