A Forest Grows through Offshore Drilling

The Chattahoochee National Forest recently announced that it added nearly seven acres of land with over 500 feet of Chattahoochee River frontage to the Forest. The tract lies north of Robertstown, GA and just downstream of Spoilcane Creek. Partnering with the Trust for Public Land, the Forest used the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for the purchase.

LWCF was created by Congress in 1965 to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans.

http://georgiatu.wordpress.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gif Royalty revenues paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) are put into this fund - $900 million annually. It seems simple enough. But Congress has diverted more than $17 billion of this funding to uses other than conserving our most important lands and waters. 86% of Americans support reinvesting royalties from offshore drilling into public lands and 77% favor full funding of LWCF.

Some of Georgia’s most valued public lands have been preserved through the LWCF. The Peach State has received approximately $278 million from the LWCF. Places such as the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River, Chattahoochee National Recreation Area and Chattahoochee National Forest have been beneficiaries.

LWCF is an investment in a vital part of Georgia’s economy - outdoor recreation. $3.5 billion is spent by sportsman and wildlife watchers annually in Georgia. Nationally, 1 out of every 15 jobs is associated with outdoor recreation, natural resource preservation and historic preservation contributing $1.06 trillion annually to America’s economy. The Trust for Public Land found that every $1 of LWCF funding provides $4 of economic value.

Today there is a backlog of $30 billion in identified federal public lands needing protection and another $27 billion of state lands. LWCF provides direct funding and matching grants for acquisition of lands and conservation easements. The next time that LWCF funding comes up for a vote, tell your U.S. Senator and Congressman that you support full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

See you on the stream.

Kevin McGrath is Georgia Trout Unlimited’s Advocacy Chairman. 

This post first appeared in Georgia TU’s blog – Peach State Trout.