Devil's Lake

View of Wisconsin's Devil's Lake State Park

Before the sun sets on Paul Ryan’s congressional career, Wisconsin conservationists want the House speaker to lead an effort to fully fund the parks program and permanently protect the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is due to expire Sept. 30.

The nonprofit Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters launched a campaign earlier this summer, calling on Ryan to “be a leader, reauthorize the LWCF permanently and protect the public places both he and his constituents enjoy.”

To conservation voters, the league has called for their endorsement of the effort and letters to Ryan — including mention of Wisconsin’s 1,200-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail and the fund’s role in maintaining and expanding it.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund was established 52 years ago to protect national parks and other open spaces and public places, including rec centers.

Since the fund’s inception in 1965, roughly $16 billion — generated from royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling — have gone to conservation and outdoor recreation in America, according to the national Wilderness Society, which characterized the fund as “the most effective and popular conservation program in the United States — but also one of the least appreciated.”

In Wisconsin, the fund has provided more than $215 million for building trails, increasing access and protecting public spaces, including the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Wolf Wild and Scenic River, Devil’s Lake State Park, High Cliff State Park, Central Sands Pine Forest and the Ice Age trail.

Over the past 10 years, more than $12 million from the fund has gone for enhancing the Ice Age trail, a public/private partnership involving federal, state and local governments and a nonprofit. The money was matched with $22 million from the Wisconsin Stewardship Fund and local money to preserve 57 additional miles of the trail.

WLCV executive director Kerry Schumann said Wisconsin communities rely on the fund "to preserve and enhance the outdoor spaces that we all enjoy. … Speaker Paul Ryan has the opportunity to be a national leader and ensure the fund is reauthorized permanently.”

A letter drafted by the league — available to conservationists to sign at www.congressweb.com/wlcv/55/ — informs Ryan, “The Trump administration’s budget calls for near complete elimination of LWCF funding. On Sept. 30, the fund will expire unless Congress votes to reauthorize it.”

Watch the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters’ video at conservationvoters.org/lwcf. Learn more about the campaign on social media using #SaveLWCF.

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