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Mark Meadows, the freshman Congressman from North Carolina’s 11th District has joined a national effort launched by North Carolina’s senior Senator Richard Burr to fix the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Meadows signed a letter asking colleagues in the House of Representatives to ensure that the conservation funding mechanism is fixed. Legislation establishing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was passed in 1964. That legislation directed $900 million from offshore oil drilling revenues into the LWCF to fund conservation within national parks, national forests, fish and wildlife refuges and other public lands. The program also provides funding to purchase working forest easements and provides matching grants administered through state parks systems. Since its founding, funds have repeatedly been stripped out of the account and spent elsewhere, prompting Sen. Burr to craft legislation to ensure honest budgeting of the fund as established in the original bill.
"Congressman Meadows showed real leadership on this issue," says Jay Leutze, a trustee for Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. "While he was running for office he said he would be a champion for the outdoor recreation economy, hunting and fishing access, and our mountain heritage. By joining this effort he has made good on his commitment."
Tim Gestwicki, CEO of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation agrees. "The 11th district includes parts of Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail, as well as numerous state park units that have been protected by the LWCF," Gestwicki says. "These are the places we take our kids to teach them to hunt and fish, and to connect with the great outdoors. It's also where a lot of the economic vitality of our region is generated."
Recent reports indicate that outdoor recreation is a major economic driver in North Carolina, generating over $19 billion in sales and supporting 192,000 jobs.
Support for the LWCF is a bipartisan effort in the state. Senator Kay Hagan joined Senator Burr's legislation as a sponsor soon after it was unveiled, and Meadows was joined by several other members of NC's House delegation, including Democrat GK Butterfield who sponsored the House letter. The President's 2014 budget includes funding for critical inholdings in North Carolina's national forests, including a project on the North Mills River that would provide additional access to the prized trout waters next to a heavily used campground and a project on iconic Grandfather Mountain.