It’s difficult to imagine the United States without Rocky Mountain, Grand Canyon and Great Smoky Mountains national parks. Americans cherish our lands and the recreation they provide. President Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, was so inspired by the beauty of our nation that he preserved more than 230 million acres of public lands. It is time for Republicans to return to our conservationist roots.
In 1965, Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund to safeguard natural areas and water resources and to enhance recreational opportunities. In every county in all 50 states, the fund supports local and state parks, hiking trails, hunting and fishing access, community pools, ballparks and playgrounds.
The fund is fiscally responsible. It doesn’t add to the deficit, and states and localities are required to match the federal grants for most funds. It’s funded in perpetuity through royalties paid by energy companies for offshore oil and gas exploration.
Nothing is perfect: The program is in need of updates to ensure more money in fact goes toward projects. But certainly we can reform the program without gutting it.
Congress has broken a lot of promises to future generations; let’s not make the Land and Water Conservation Fund another one.
Ryan Zinke, Washington
The writer, a Republican, represents Montana in the House.