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Package among most important conservation, rec plans in years

Most presidents seem eager to nail down their conservation credentials by creating new national parks, forests and monuments. The trouble is, we have not done a good job in maintaining what we have already.

Give President Donald Trump credit, then, for seeing the light on conservation. Kudos also to the bipartisan group of members of Congress who steered him in the right direction.

Two important conservation/recreation programs are included in a deal reached between Trump and senators of both major parties. One is reinvigorating the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The other is augmenting federal funding to clear a backlog of maintenance work at national parks.

Few people seem to be aware of the LWCF, but its work is all around us. For more than half a century, the fund has been providing support to local conservation and recreation projects. Many small parks, public swimming pools and similar recreation facilities, probably including some in our area, have received LWCF support.

For many months, the very existence of the program has been in doubt. There is no need to allow it to slide into insignificance, however; every dime that goes to the LWCF is from fees for offshore oil and gas drilling.

Reportedly, Trump had favored reducing LWCF support dramatically. Fortunately, he was willing to listen to the funds’ supporters, including both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Now, Trump has agreed to a major increase in LWCF funding, to about $900 million a year.

In addition, the White House is ready to go along with a plan to add $1.3 billion a year to National Park Service maintenance. That should allow the NPS to make repairs and improvements at most national parks.

It is not an overstatement to note that the two-part package is one of the most important conservation/recreation proposals for many years.

Now, the plan must be approved by both the Senate and House of Representatives. No one can say what obstacles lie in the way of that.

Politics seems to intrude upon nearly every facet of government these days. It needs to be kept out of this one.

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