What do offshore oil drilling and Zion National Park have in common with the redwoods? On first pass, not much – but as a recent story on CBS news shows, they are linked through a nearly 50-year-old program called the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Established with bipartisan congressional support in 1965, the idea was simple: use revenue from the depletion of one natural resource – offshore oil and gas – to support conservation of another precious resource – our land and water. Over the years this fund has built our national, state and local parks – including the redwood parks here in California.
Every year, $900 million in royalties paid by energy companies for drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf are deposited into this fund. Yet despite the multi-billion dollar needs of our National Parks, every year this fund is raided for other purposes. This year Congress is proposing to allocate a scant $160 million of the $900 million to conservation. And every year it does that, precious opportunities to protect priority inholdings and additions to parks are lost to development – and as we know, development is hard to undo.
Through our members’ support, the League is often able to bridge the gap when a landowner wants to sell but the Government does not yet have the funds to acquire the land. This was the case five years ago when we acquired a critical addition to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The League moved quickly to purchase the land and then worked closely with the California State Parks and National Park Service to secure LWCF funding enabling the state to acquire the land for addition to the park. This partnership was celebrated with a hike for our members from the unusual Sandhill community on the ridge to the towering redwoods below. We were honored to be joined by Ruth Coleman, former director of State Parks, and Jon Jarvis, now the director of National Parks, to mark this important project. But that was five years ago, and we now face real and pressing needs.
The lack of strong bipartisan support threatens funding for this program and means that options to protect critical park land are being lost every year. I for one am grateful for the private donors who stepped up with our colleagues at the Trust for Public Land to protect land within Zion National Park for all to enjoy – it’s one of my favorite parks. And I am grateful for all that our members do to ensure we are ready when we need to act here in the redwoods.
To help the League stay nimble and able to make more critical acquisitions, please donate to our Redwood Land Fund today!