A Wise Investment

Green Space U.S. should fully fund federal park and wildlife program

The Hartford Courant, December 6th

One of this country's founding myths was that of endless land, land for the taking, a huge empty continent waiting for hardy pioneers. Though the myth dies hard, it's now becoming clear that, especially in the East, we have a finite amount of land. People who drive expensive cars want to develop it. If we to save the best natural, scenic and environmentally sensitive areas, we must act now.

That's why it is essential that the U.S. Senate pass a bill that will fully fund that federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. This program, part of the 1965 deal that allowed offshore oil and gas drilling, was created to upgrade or expand U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuges and National Parks, municipal and state parks, and forests and highlands.

In Connecticut the fund has helped support the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Reserve, Weir Farm, Skiff Mountain and a number of other sites. It also supports the visionary Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, which aims to protect flora and fauna in the 7.2 million-acre Connecticut River watershed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

The issue is that the fund is almost always shortchanged. It is supposed to receive $900 million a year from drilling revenues — oil and gas drilling leases produced more than $5 billion last year — but usually gets $150 to $200 million, sometimes less. A bill now before the Senate, co-sponsored by Sens. Chris Dodd and Joseph Lieberman, will assure full funding. We urge its passage. Preserving our natural environment reduces sprawl and pollution, adds greatly to quality of life, preserves habitat and helps the economy.