Land and Water Conservation Fund picnic to build momentum for preservation

Sue Guinn Legg • Mar 28, 2018 at 9:43 PM

ERWIN — Midway through a 52-week tour across the country to raise awareness of the need for Congressional action to preserve the U.S. Land & Water Conservation Fund, the federal land preservation program is inviting the community to a picnic on the Nolichucky River in Unicoi County.

Set for 2-5 p.m. Saturday at the USA Raft Outpost in the Chestoa community of Erwin, the free picnic will feature food and refreshments from Johnson City’s Southern Craft BBQ and Great Oak Brewing Company and stories of successful land preservation projects in Tennessee from the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, The Conservation Fund, The Wilderness Society and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

At work since 1965, the LWCF was first proposed during the Kennedy administration to help states acquire and protect their natural lands from commercial encroachment, to develop natural recreation resources and to finance new federal recreation areas.

According to the National Park Service website, www.nps.gov, the LWCF has been authorized to spend up to $900 million annually since 1999. Through the Congressional budgeting process, funding for the LWCF was allowed to expire on Sept. 30, 2015, but was later renewed through September 2018. The NPS reports fully funding the program will require 11.5 percent of all U.S. oil and gas tax revenues.

Now in its 52nd year, the LWCF is attempting to build momentum for finding a long-term solution for its authorization and funding and the LWCF Coalition has launched a year-long awareness initiative counting down to the Sept. 30 expiration of what its members consider to be the nation’s “most important conservation and recreation program.”

Its cross-country tour is highlighting the LWCF’s work in a different U.S. state or territory weekly and Saturday’s picnic will showcase conservation success stories in Tennessee as well as on the horizon for LWCF to improve local, state and federal opportunities for recreational access and conservation.

Locally, those opportunities include a pending LWCF funded land acquisition in the Hump Mountain section of the the Roan Highlands conservation area that will link the Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests and adjoin more than 2,000 acres of lands in the two forests acquired with prior LWCF funding.

According the LWCF, the Hump Mountain acquisition will protect the acquired lands from expansion of nearby subdivision developments and minimize encroachment on the adjacent Appalachian Trail.

More information about the tour and the work of the LWCF is available at www.lwcfcoalition.com.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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