Guest Opinions

Federal success story: Land & Water Conservation Fund creates legacy of Idaho parks, paths

The Boise River Greenbelt is one of the Idaho parks and path projects made possible by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The Boise River Greenbelt is one of the Idaho parks and path projects made possible by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

If you’ve launched a tube or raft from Barber Park, enjoyed the Boise River Greenbelt or visited certain neighborhood parks in Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, Middleton, Eagle or Boise, you’ve benefited from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

This federal program is funded from offshore oil-leasing payments and provides money for land conservation and park development. LWCF is not fed with taxpayer dollars. Since the early 1960s, the fund has helped local communities develop projects like Spring Shores Marina at Lucky Peak or Lake Lowell Park in Canyon County. It’s these facilities that help create the quality of life Treasure Valley residents love. One of the first projects funded in Idaho includes land purchases of what is now the Boise River Wildlife Management Area above Harris Ranch. This land is critical to the survival of deer and elk during harsh winter months.

LWCF also helps assure access to public lands for hiking, hunting and riding – pursuits that define who we are as Idahoans and why many of us choose to live here.

It’s hard to imagine how the Treasure Valley would look without help from this important program. Since LWCF was enacted over 50 years ago, over $5.8 million has been invested in our valley. LWCF has created assets allowing us to live healthy and active lifestyles. It is also an economic engine helping drive local communities. If you enjoy clean water, healthy lands and vibrant communities, congressional reauthorization of the LWCF is in your interest.

This program is also unique in that it brings together citizens, agencies and Congress to create parks and conservation lands. It is non-partisan and supported by congressmen on both sides of the aisle, a rare and encouraging show of solidarity.

LWCF authorization expires in September. A coalition of conservation and recreation groups are working hard to encourage Congress to support permanent reauthorization of the program. Fortunately Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson and Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch have all been consistent champions on this topic. It’s clearly one of the federal government’s success stories and should continue. Contact your congressional representatives and let them know how important LWCF is to improving your quality of life and thank them for supporting a program that enhances Idaho’s outdoors.

Conde is the development & communications manager for the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, a non profit conservation group based in Boise.