Local event raises awareness for reauthorization of Land and Water Conservation Fund

Hannah Swayze • Mar 31, 2018 at 11:30 PM

On the outside, Picnics for Public Land is a fun event showcasing the best of the best of public lands in each state, but while the day was filled with beautiful views and fun activities, the cause behind it  is serious.

Saturday's event at USA Raft in Erwin was one stop in the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition's 52-stop tour across the country, showcasing the benefits of public land and raising awareness about how the land is preserved — and the fact that in 26 weeks on Sept. 30, the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s authorization expires unless Congress votes to reauthorize it.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a national fund that safeguards natural areas, water resources and culture preservation and provides recreation opportunities.

The fund uses earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to provide grants to local and state governments and to buy land for the public. These public lands include everything from national parks, rivers and the large expanse of the Appalachian Trail to public basketball courts and preserved historical battlefields.

At this stop, the tour decided to show off the best of Tennessee. The event had barbecue, a host of water and outdoor activities like fishing, stand-up paddle boarding and hiking.

For Jay Leutze, Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy board president and one of the organizers, the awareness is his main goal.

“We're really trying to raise awareness for public lands in general and how public lands get paid for. We worry that if that authorization expires, it’s going to be really hard to continue to get people who hunt and fish and hike and camp access to these amazing mountaintops and this incredible gorge,” said Leutze.

The event was hosted by USA Raft and Mountain River Guides. It is located along the Nolichucky River in Erwin and owned by Matt Moses.

The public lands his business relies on makes a living for him and the 103 people working for him, he said.

For more information on the Land and Water Conservation Fund, visit https://www.nps.gov/subjects/lwcf/index.htm.

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