TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 2014 – Not every city is Portland. And not every city resident is surrounded by such natural beauties as Forest Park, or Hayden Island, or Mount Hood.
We have it lucky here. And Earth Day is a good day to remind us of that.
Earth Day April 22 has been a worldwide celebration since 1970, with the goal of supporting protection for the environment. It’s an annual reminder for us to recognize the importance of healthy air, land and water across the country, especially in our cities and metropolitan areas where the majority of our population lives.
One of the most important sources of funding for America’s local, state and national parks is the hugely successful, but little known, Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund was created in 1965 to assist in preserving, developing and assuring accessibility of outdoor recreation resources for all Americans. Since then, it has helped to create more than 42,000 state and local projects including parks, playgrounds, urban wildlife refuges, greenways, trails and open space in all 50 states.
In fact, more than 98 percent of the counties in the nation have a park project funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
As a staunch advocate of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, I am proud to be a member of a new bipartisan coalition, Mayors for Parks, which supports reauthorization of the fund at its full level of $900 million annually. The coalition includes mayors from around the country who realize and depend on the tremendous value that the fund provides to their cities.
The fund uses no taxpayer dollars. It’s funded through revenues from offshore oil and gas royalties paid by energy companies drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. And while Congress is authorized to spend up to $900 million annually for the fund, the program is chronically underfunded. In fact, over its 49‐year history, revenues for the fund have been diverted for other purposes almost every year. The fund has only received its full appropriation twice in 49 years! And now, most urgently, the fund is set to “sunset” on Sept. 30, 2015.
Today, 85 percent of us live in metropolitan areas, but dwelling in a city must not be used as an excuse to cut us and our children off from the wonders of nature, and the comfort and refreshment that even a few hours outdoors can bring into our hectic urban lives. Our nation’s investment in the Land and Water Conservation is an essential tool for Portland and other cities to create new and revitalized parks, green spaces and recreation opportunities, to make our communities economically, environmentally and culturally vibrant, and most importantly, ensure a healthy and livable city for everyone to enjoy.