A national program that funded nearly 70 projects at parks and nature areas in Indiana will expire at the end of this month. Indiana U.S. legislators are backing bills to make the fund permanent.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established more than 50 years ago to preserve natural areas and recreation spots — including at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the Hoosier National Forest. Money for the fund comes from the royalties energy companies pay to use public lands.
Three bills to permanently reauthorize it have bipartisan support. U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) is cosponsoring two of them. He spoke about the fund at an Indianapolis press conference late last month.
“This is not a partisan issue. This is a love for our state, for our country and our resources,” he says.
U.S. Reps. Pete Visclosky (D-Gary) and André Carson (D-Indianapolis) are sponsoring a similar bill in the U.S. House.
But only one of the bills would also aim to fully fund the program. Over the years Congress has used more than $20 billion meant for the Land and Water Conservation Fund for other purposes.
“It is insuring that Indiana and the rest of the country’s conservation and outdoor recreation needs would not be put on hold or lost forever," says Sean Mobley, an external affairs associate with The Nature Conservancy in Indiana.
More than $10 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund has gone to Indiana projects.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.