As Congress returns for its final session of 2010, one issue that deserves its attention is the full and permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
This fund is the federal government's key vehicle for supporting community efforts to protect our most important lands and waters.
Since 1964, this program has helped to protect national treasures such as the Grand Canyon and the Great Smoky Mountains national parks. It is funded through a tiny portion of the offshore oil and gas fees received by the federal government and was set up to balance the use of one natural resource with the protection of another.
Closer to home, the LWCF has helped to protect such Indiana jewels as the Hoosier National Forest, Brown County State Park and the Dunes National Lake Shore. Irreplaceable and much-loved places such as Mounds State Park and Eagle Creek Park have been greatly enhanced by the LWCF.
On a much more local scale, the LWCF has helped to create small local parks, trails, soccer fields and baseball diamonds in neighborhoods and communities across Indiana.
Because states are required to match each dollar that is received from the LWCF, these funds are an important leverage point for additional public and private dollars invested in conservation and recreational land use in Indiana. The LWCF has leveraged almost 160 million additional dollars for conservation and recreational uses in Indiana.
Last year, the U.S. collected $5 billion from offshore energy production, yet the LWCF only received 20 percent of its authorized level to protect America's lands and waters.
Indiana's congressional delegation has an opportunity right now to ensure that this fund will be adequately and permanently funded to help us protect our natural resources and provide quality outdoor recreational opportunities for our children and grandchildren in communities all across our state.
The promise was made in 1964. Fulfilling that promise of full funding is the object of Senate bill 2447. Please consider contacting our senators to urge their support.
In a time when prioritizing spending is so important, it's worth supporting legislation where the return to all citizens is very high.
Stefan Anderson is a life trustee and former chairman of The Nature Conservancy in Indiana. Anne Shane is a trustee of the Indiana chapter of The Nature Conservancy.