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Keep our public lands public

from By The Herald Editorial Board

For nearly 50 years, the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested nearly $17 billion nationwide and $500 million in Washington in state and federal land conservation projects and matching grants for state and local parks, trails, recreational facilities and to support working forests and family farms.

Among the projects that the fund could aid in Washington state next year would be preservation of 165 acres of historic farmland at Ebey's Landing on Whidbey Island through the use of conservation easements. Ebey's Landing, a National Historical Reserve, has protected public land with stunning vistas and farmland that has been in working production since the 1850s.

No taxpayer has ever paid a dime into this fund. Each year the conservation fund receives about $900 million from a portion of the fees collected from offshore oil-drilling operations, but over the years some of that funding has been diverted by Congress for uses other than the act's language intended.

That loss of funding should be corrected, but the fund itself faces a questionable future, judging by recent symbolic votes in Congress. more

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