Appalachian Mountain Club Delaware Valley Chapter outdoor leader and conservation chair joined 11 hikers at Valley Forge National Historical Park to hike 6 miles and talk about the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund on Wednesday, October 30th.
The group gathered at Knox’s Quarters area. The site is a short walk from the original Upper Forge. Henry Knox was an artillery expert and eventual Major General and Secretary of War. Knox had been present at Bunker Hill, the Battle of Brandywine, and almost every major event during the Revolutionary War.
AMC Del Val Chapter’s Conservation Chair Adrian Noble greeted participants, passing around a sign-in sheet at 9:45am that morning. The hikers would travel on various trails, including sections of the Mt. Joy, Mt. Misery, Valley Creek, and Joseph Plumb Martin trails. Gathering together, the hikers listened as Noble shared background and the latest legislative updates on the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Although many AMC Delaware Valley Chapter leaders, members and hikers supported LWCF campaigns in the past, Noble asked the group about their familiarity with the federal program and all indicated that they had not heard of it. This further underscored the value of this outreach and efforts to raise awareness.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund provides money for planning, development and acquisition projects to advance the health and vitality of the public through outdoor recreation and conservation. Congress enacted legislation authorizing the fund in 1965, and for over 50 years LWCF has protected and enhanced outdoor recreation and natural areas across the country. In Pennsylvania, LWCF provided $325M over the lifetime of the fund. Valley Forge National Historical Park benefited from the fund alongside other federal areas of significance in the commonwealth including the Appalachian Scenic Trail and the recently-founded Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Advocates, including Appalachian Mountain Club, worked for many years spreading the word about LWCF contributions.
Noble explained that earlier in the year LWCF experienced legislative success through the John D. Dingell Junior Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act which permanently authorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Signed into law in March 2019, the Act answered advocate calls to Save LWCF from expiration.
The next wave of the campaign to strengthen the LWCF focuses on annual funding. While legislation authorizes disbursement of $900M from the fund each year, that level of funding is rarely fully realized. In fact, most years Congress appropriates just over half of that amount. Trail users and conservation-minded groups want Congress to Fund LWCF.
Noble shared that there is good news on the Hill. There are bills in both the House and the Senate to provide full, dedicated funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund at the level of $900M, annually. Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) introduced S1081, and Rep. Jeff Van Drew (NJ) introduced HR3195 this year. Decisionmakers from across the aisle offer bipartisan support to both bills. Sen Bob Casey (PA) supports S1081, and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA) has been dedicated to HR3195. Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA) and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (PA) also support HR3195. Noble asked the group to “[p]lease contact your representatives to tell them that full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund is important to you, and you want the bill passed this year.”
Larry Priori led the group on the hike through Valley Forge National Historical Park, and the hikers stopped for a snack near George Washington’s headquarters near the banks of the Schuylkill River. Priori incorporates a short first aid lesson into all of his hikes, and he taught participants how to use a triangular bandage for arm injuries.
On the trails, hikers conversed with one another. Several discussed how Land and Water Conservation Fund is not a partisan issue. There is widespread support across the aisle to fully fund Land and Water Conservation Fund. Hunters, fisherman and sportsman benefit from LWCF. Those who want access to local parks in urban areas benefit from LWCF. Recreationists and families who love national sites like Valley Forge benefit from LWCF.
AMC hikes leaders, Del Val chapter leaders, members and advocates are reminding outdoor enthusiasts that now is a critical time to ensure that the Land and Water Conservation Fund receives the money it is promised.