By Mike Fitzpatrick, Adam Garber, and Jeff Marshall
Whether it's watching your kids sled for the first time, cooling off in a stream, or even casting a line at one of the best fishing spots in the country, our natural heritage in Pennsylvania is where some of our most treasured memories are formed. From Tyler State Park to Valley Forge and the Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvanians are blessed to live near such beautiful forests and parks.
Without the help of one national program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, many of these places would have been polluted or lost to development.
The Delaware Water Gap, for instance, is home to black bears and bald eagles, and has been called one of the best places for hiking and fishing in the country. By protecting it, we ensure a clean Delaware River downstream, where a lot of us canoe, kayak, and go tubing.
Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy and Congress took action to protect many of our most treasured parks from pollution, overdevelopment, drilling, and mining. And today we celebrate this landmark legislation, which has protected the very best of Pennsylvania, and all the opportunities these sites offer.
This genius of a program used money from oil-drilling royalties to purchase and conserve nearby lands, where pollution could impact existing parks, or even to create new parks. And, by having local communities match the funds, it leveraged more financial resources to protect our natural heritage, and it ensured that the funding was directed to places locals valued the most.
Since that first year, however, in good budget times and bad, Congress has raided the fund for nonconservation programs. This has caused us to miss out on opportunities to protect our parks and open spaces from new threats. We can change this by stopping the raids on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and ensuring that it is used to protect our precious assets.
From national icons like Independence Hall to local sites like Nockamixon State Park, all these beautiful places deserve protection. That's why we have the Land and Water Conservation Fund. And after 50 years of progress, it's time to renew our vow to protect the hundreds of parks that Pennsylvanians love, and to ensure that the fund has the resources it needs.
Lasting protection from development and pollution is the best gift we could give to our natural heritage - and it ensures our children will have places to create their own cherished memories. Toward that end, we'll be asking President Obama and Congress this year to stand up for our natural heritage and fully support permanent, dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.