The Land and Water Conservaton Fund died a couple weeks ago.
It was a quiet last breath for an organization that spent more than 50 years buying up beautiful parcels of America — putting to use fees paid to the government by companies drilling offshores for oil and gas. While others paved over paradise, the LWCF prevented parking lots from taking over our country’s open spaces.
But now, it’s officially gone, suffering a feeble, unheralded exit at the peak of the Kavanaugh hearings, lost because Congress negotiated a three-year extension when its 50-year authorization ended in 2015, but this time around was fine just letting it go.
And it should come as no suprise that losing a major conservation fund presents immediate environmental issues, one of which is underway at the Zion Narrows right now. One of America’s most photographed hikes is in danger: the famous 16-mile march through the russet canyon actually starts outside of Zion National Park borders, and a mile-long stretch that separates hikers from the park is private land … that the owners are now looking to sell.
According to Outside, property owner Scott Bulloch and his family want to offload their section of the treasured land to the highest bidder, with signs touting “resort potential.”
Surprisingly, though, their original intention was to sell the land to the government. They worked with SF-based Trust for Public Land to try to persuade the U.S. Forest Service to buy the land. Only problem? The USFS relies on spending money from the LWCF, which … has completely lapsed. There are limits to how much the American government can pay for land, and without the LWCF’s buyback prowess, the Narrows could conceivably head to an open market sale.
Luckily, for now, cooler heads are prevailing. An arrangement was brokered to allow hikers to wade the private land through the end of the year, and the Forest Service is looking for a new appraisal to get talks back on the table. Our advice? Write to your representatives. Find out where they stand on the issue. Visit the Narrows when you can.
And look for easy ways to support the environment and join the fight. A fight not just against climate change, but against the forces of ignorant apathy that would lead this country to touristic offerings far less accessible than the ones our planet was kind enough to provide in the first place.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
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