The U.S. Interior Department is doling out almost $95 million dollars for recreation and conservation projects, but Utah might be challenged to come up with matching funds so it can tap the state’s share.
Dimple Dell Park and Toll Canyon are among hundreds of recipients of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in Utah. It’s money that Congress distributes from federal offshore oil and gas revenues. Wendy Fisher, executive director of Utah Open Lands, advocates using the funding to protect Utah’s natural assets.
“It’s an economic driver, aside from the fact that we all know this is why we live here and why we love the quality of life we have here.”
Fisher says the fund has real-world benefits, like protecting rivers and habitat for species in trouble like the sage grouse.
She also says that state lawmakers didn’t appropriate money for conservation this year. And that means Utah might have trouble raising the required matching funds so that it can leverage all of the $1.2 million the Interior Department has just made available for Utah projects. Fisher says that means raising private funds through organizations like hers.
“Parks and recreational opportunities, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, these trail connections we want to see, those are funded through partnership,” she says. “And if we can’t be a good partner, if we don’t have the funding to be a good partner, it limits those partnerships.”
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell recently called on Congress to fully fund the program at $900 million a year -- permanently. But Utah Republican Congressman Rob Bishop says instead that the conservation fund should be reformed.