After 50 years, the national land and water conservation fund expired this year and all our national parks and lands have lost their funding. Proposed by Washington Senator Henry Jackson in 1965, the land and water conservation fund used some of the money from companies that drill oil and gas offshore in public waters to maintain public parks and territories.
When he proposed preserving the 5 million acres over 50 states, the House of Representatives passed unanimously with a 92-1 vote in favor of the program.
Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, believes that the federal government should stop expanding territories in private lands. Private lands around national parks and trails are part of what makes them interesting. The funding provided by the oil and gas companies helps support the parks, and it has been working well for 50 years.
Bishop says the old program is outdated, with details not being adequately specified for maintaining the land. With the land and water conservation fund, oil and gas companies analogously paid rent to the national parks for using public waters, instead of paying taxes. With the program expiring, the oil and gas companies pay nothing and drill the waters for free because an alternate solution was not proposed.
A lot of tourism outside the greater Seattle area is dependent on the national parks and forests that the federal government has been maintaining. Private land owners usually buy inholdings, private land within national parks, to build a home, enjoy an iconic view and appreciate the wildlife.
Bishop wants to allow the transfer of federal land to state hands so that they can build infrastructure as they please. The restrictions for land development are different on a state level.
There are infrastructure development plans for building an energy station in exchange for funding and maintenance. I think that giving up the federal land will lead to an increasing amount of excuses for more infrastructure development until the land becomes urbanized within decades.
Logging is also a legitimate concern, building large homes in national parks could lead to smaller forests. Parks could be losing much of their wildlife from clearing land for homeowners.
In 1965, many national parks had pockets of privately owned land left over from older industries and purchases. The conservation fund also supported the purchase of private inholdings, such as abandoned mines and other properties, for expanding national park regions.
This is an issue that is happening on a national and local level. Parks like Mount Si, Rattlesnake Mountain, Gas Works and Mercer Slough are only a few of the local parks that were protected by the land and water conservation fund. These parks will no longer be maintained but tourists will continue to visit if allowed. Trash will build up on trails and especially campgrounds people like to visit on weekends and holidays. The hard earned efforts made towards land restoration could go to waste by human waste from the current technological millennium of plastics and other non-biodegradable materials.
Bishop wants to focus on resolving Native American health issues as an expansion upon the federal money from the Land and Water Conservation fund. When Bishop did not succeed in expanding the program, he decided to stop the support of federal parks and land. Rather than finding a solution, it seems that Bishop wants to ignore a previous issue and move on to a new one.
He also says that the federal government has a surplus of land that it has difficulty manning and maintaining. As a solution, he says the land could be made into state parks. The national parks are unmanned because the funding expired recently, if there was more financial support for national and park conservation, I doubt there would be as much of a problem maintaining the federal land.
With the increasing population growth rate in the United States, homes are expanding into national parks. If funding is not continued, then restrictions for building vacation homes will be lifted and slowly but surely, Washington could stop being the evergreen state its citizens are proud to live in.