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Parks Fund: Congress should pass recreation legislation

Problems with the way federal government handles funding for both local recreation projects and national parks would be resolved, at least partially, by a bill awaiting action in the U.S. Senate — the Great American Outdoors Act (S3422).

Perhaps the most important federal initiative aiding local recreation facilities — from municipal swimming pools to town parks — is the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Many communities in the Mid-Ohio Valley have received funding through the LWCF.

In the Mountain State, the LWCF has provided $243 million to local governments and the state itself, according to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

But the mechanism is unreliable in the long run because, though it is authorized to receive as much as $900 million a year, the money is appropriated annually. That gives members of Congress opportunities to siphon off funds for other purposes. S3422 stipulates the LWCF will be funded fully and permanently. That should have happened a long time ago.

What’s more, another section of S3422 would require as much as $1.9 billion a year from oil, gas, coal and alternative energy development of federal lands be provided to address maintenance backlogs at national parks, national forests and similar places.

Our national parks system may be America’s crown jewels, but maintenance and repair has been neglected for so long that a $22 billion backlog of necessary projects exists.

Among co-sponsors of S3422 are Manchin and Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Rob Portman, R-Ohio and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. Bipartisan support like that says a lot about the need for the bill.

It should be approved by the Senate, then the House of Representatives, and signed into law.

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