A federal program that’s provided more than a billion dollars to protect and preserve natural areas in Florida is at risk of losing its Congressional authorization.
Sept. 30 is the deadline for Congress to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is used to create and maintain city, county and state parks, marinas, protected forests and historic battlefields in Florida and across the country.
"If you enjoy birding, if you enjoy boating, if you’re an angler or a hunter or just a nature-viewer, or whatever -- there’s something in this program for everybody," said Manley Fuller, president and CEO of the Florida Wildlife Federation. He's part of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, a group of more than 1000 conservation leaders across the country pushing for reauthorization.
Since its creation in 1964, the fund has supported more than 180 natural areas in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties alone. Money comes from fees on offshore oil and gas drilling.
Fuller says the benefits to Florida extend beyond just getting people outdoors.
"A significant part" of Florida's economy "is nature-related or nature-based," he said. "All over the state, this is really beneficial."
The other U.S. states also rely on the fund to support their natural areas.
Twenty-five years after its creation in the 1960s, the fund was reauthorized for the first time. This time around, members of the LWCF Coalition say they want Congress to reauthorize the program permanently.
Fuller says he’s looking to Florida’s senators and representatives to lead the effort.