Editorial: Trump's latest slight of hand
On Tuesday, President Trump signed a bill to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. However, on Monday the president proposed a fiscal 2020 budget that would slash nearly all funding for LWCF.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is America's most important conservation and recreation program. Over the past half century, it has saved places in every state in the U.S. According to the Land Trust Alliance, LWCF supports 41,000 state and local park projects, provides 9.4 million sustainable domestic jobs, protects millions of acres of land and contributes $1.06 trillion annually to the national economy. All at zero cost to taxpayers.

Maine touts itself as Vacationland. The state's $9 billion outdoor recreation and tourism industry is an economic powerhouse, supporting more than 106,000 jobs, which generate over $2 billion in wages and salaries and produce $600 million annually in state and local tax revenue. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been crucial to this.

In Maine, LWCF has invested more than $187 million to protect forests, wildlife refuges, and increase recreation access. From backcountry trails to community parks, LWCF has protected places such as Acadia National Park, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Saddleback Mountain, Rangeley Lake State Park, and the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Acadia National Park alone has benefitted from ongoing LWCF investments of more than $24 million.

Congress had let the LWCF program expire on September 30, 2018. Finally, in late February it sent legislation that passed both houses with strong bipartisan support to the president to re-up the program.

President Trump signed the bill yesterday. But just the day before, he submitted a budget for fiscal year 2020 that would slash funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 95 percent.

He wants to be able to brag that he supports conservation. Perhaps he thinks no one will notice that he doesn't:

• Trump took a year and a half to nominate a National Park Service director and none has yet been confirmed

• Trump's first Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, committed so many infractions he had to resign amid scandal

• Trump's decision to keep most of the 418 units of the National Park System open during the recent government shutdown resulted garbage piling up and vandalism destroying national treasures

• Trump's 2020 budget calls for cutting more than 400 full-time staff from the National Park Service

• Trump's border wall would block wildlife movement and be an ecological disaster

While the U.S. goes backward on conservation under the Trump Administration, other countries are surging ahead. China, for instance, just announced plans to create five national parks in Tibet. "The new national parks will benefit the environment while boosting the local ecotourism economy," said a Chinese official.

Phil Francis, chair of the Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, pointed out that "The Trump administration does not appear to be dealing in reality."

Trump seems to think being president means he can have his own fake "reality TV show." Thousands of species beg to differ.

Posted on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 (Archive on Wednesday, April 3, 2019)
Posted by Jym St. Pierre   Contributed by Jym St. Pierre