Last week I hiked the French Trail in Redwood Regional Park to take in the quiet of early morning in our neighboring redwood forest. Every time, I appreciate the wisdom, foresight and tenacity of those who preserved these redwoods and the hills and valleys surrounding them. The park protects miles of forest, streams, oak woodlands and related habitat along the ridgeline of the East Bay hills from San Leandro through Oakland. Wise folks established the East Bay Regional Parks District in 1934.
My mind wandered and wondered: What do these towering redwoods think of today’s skirmishes in Congress over money that should be available to expand and further protect the redwood forests?
In 1965 Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund Program (LWCF) to receive up to $900 million each year from a portion of offshore oil and gas revenues. What an appropriate use of those funds. Over the last 45 years, California has received approximately $2 billion in LWCF funding, protecting places such as Redwood National Park and helping to fund California’s Forest Legacy Program, which protects environmentally important forestland threatened with conversion to non-forest uses, such as subdivision for residential or commercial development.
Currently, the League is working with Redwood National Park to acquire a key inholding, (a parcel of privately owned land within the boundaries of the park). The park expects to use LWCF funds to pay for the land.
However, LWCF does not actually receive its Congressionally authorized $900 million. Historically, most of these funds have been diverted by the Congressional budget process. For example, in 2010 the Department of the Interior collected approximately $5.2 billion from offshore energy production, but only $306 million, or about 7 percent of that revenue, was made available for the LWCF. And for fiscal year 2013 which begins October 1, Congress has not yet appropriated any money.
So as I continue my walk, listening to Redwood Creek and the muffled sounds of other hikers enjoying the cool shade, I wonder if Congress can muster the wisdom of our East Bay predecessors and fund the protection for our forests into the 21st century.