Revenue from leases for offshore oil and gas development in federal waters helped states build or improve 198 parks across the country in 2011, ranging from establishing a new park on Texas' most pristine river, to protecting and providing public access to prehistoric petroglyphs in Wyoming to building a new wheelchair-accessible playground in Indiana, according to a new report issued by the Interior Department's National Park Service.
Under the Land and Water Conservation Fund State and Local Assistance Program, the Park Service awarded $33.3 million in grants to states to help communities invest in new parks or renovate or expand existing parks. States, local communities, and other partners exceeded the required dollar-for-dollar match by providing $43.9 million to complete the projects.
"The Land and Water Conservation Fund today is helping us meet the goals of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to foster a 21st century vision for conservation and outdoor recreation," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. "We are working in partnership with communities across America to use the revenues from the energy resources we take out of the ground to build a lasting legacy of parks, trails and open spaces."
"The Land and Water Conservation Fund State and Local Assistance Program powers a federal-state partnership that benefits communities and strengthens our economy," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "Thanks to these grants, we are connecting Americans with the great outdoors by providing quality recreational opportunities that are close to home, open to the public, and accessible to all."
Through the fund, a portion of the revenue derived from oil development of federal lands is shared with local communities to provide recreational opportunities for the public. The grants must be matched by partners at least a dollar-for-dollar.
Projects that received funds in 2011 included:
* The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department acquired 17, 639 acres of Devils River Ranch at the confluence of the Devils River and Amistad Reservoir. A $1.33 million grant helped the state protect at total of 37,000 acres, including 24 river miles. Recreational opportunities range from remote wilderness activities to "family-friendly" river access for fishing, hunting and paddling.
* At Legend Rocks State Historical Site in Wyoming, the state was able to rally private citizens, tribes, and other partners to protect 300 prehistoric petroglyphs, including some of the oldest and best examples of Dinwoody rock art in the world, while improving public access.
* The City of Fort Wayne used development grant to help fund a special playground that allows children of all abilities to explore and let their imaginations take flight. Beyond planning for wheelchair access, the city included features that considered physical, visual and mental accessibility.
The full report is available at www.nps.gov/lwcf, along with additional information about the program.