Considering the amount of time I spend on public lands — both personally and professionally — I figured it was time for me to express my appreciation for them and do what I can to advocate for their importance. I recently went to Washington, D.C., to talk to Maine’s congressional delegation about the significance of the places I love and how to save them and create more cherished places for all Mainers to enjoy, now and in the future.
I’m talking specifically about the most successful piece of bipartisan conservation legislation that has positively impacted all 50 states — the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Passed in 1965, this fund takes a small portion of revenue made from offshore drilling fees to allow treasured state and federal lands to be preserved, protected and expanded with zero cost to taxpayers.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has touched nearly everyone in Maine through trails and ball parks, and river access and hunting access, to wildlife corridor connections and much more. I have personally benefited from many projects that received support from the program including regular walks in Royal River Park, hot summer days at Crescent Beach State Park, camping at Camden Hills State Park, wildlife viewing in Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, and hiking in Acadia National Park, among many more special places in Maine.
A program with such far reach deserves to continue not just for its value to conservation, recreation and wildlife, but also for its economic impacts. Over the past few decades, the outdoor recreation industry has quietly become an enormous American economic engine, contributing $887 billion to our economy in 2017 alone. In Maine, this translates into $8.2 billion in consumer spending and more than 76,000 jobs. The outdoor industry is huge economic driver and engine for our nation and state and the Land and Water Conservation Fund is critical fuel for that engine.
So, I ask, why did Congress allow the expiration date to come and go when we are giving up more than $2 million per day dedicated to conservation? Why are projects and negotiations on hold? Why is there so much uncertainty about one of the most successful conservation programs in our country that has so much support from both parties?
The good news is that it is not too late to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but we must act swiftly to save it by the end of the year. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin have all said they support the Land and Water Conservation Fund. We truly need their leadership to ensure common sense prevails in the halls of Congress.
We need both Republicans and Democrats in our delegation and across the country to put partisanship aside and pass legislation to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund before Congress adjourns for the year. To save this program, we need Mainers to pick up the phone and call your members of Congress and ask them to actively work to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund now. Let’s move past the partisan gridlock and work together to provide our nation with a breath of fresh air by saving this wildly popular and successful conservation program.
Kerry Gallivan CEO and founder of Chimani, a mobile app travel guide for national parks and a board member for Teens To Trails, which supports high school outing clubs throughout Maine. He lives in Yarmouth with his wife and two children.