Monday, August 10, 2015

Perceptions and the Land and Water Conservation Fund

An article in today's Casper Star Tribune starts off as follows:
Think of your favorite park, ballfield or city swimming pool. Chances are it was paid for in part by the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The federal grant gave $121,000 to help build Casper's Highland Park in 1974, for example. It supplied $64,000 at Curt Gowdy State Park in 1976. In 2007, it provided $66,930 to build a playground in Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park. 
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has doled out about $17 billion in 50 years, creating outdoor recreation opportunities across the country. But that run may be coming to an end.
Unless reauthorized in Congress, the fund will sunset Sept. 30.
“I don’t know how those projects would get off the ground without it,” said Dominic Bravo, administrator of Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails.
The article goes on to explain how the Land and Water Conservation Fund started off with modest funding during the Eisenhower Administration, but it greatly expanded during the 1970s.  It provides money to local government for recreational facilities of all types, and the categories are very broad, and its funded by revenues generated from off shore mineral exploration.  The original concept, according to the Tribune, was to use those off shore proceeds to fund recreational activities for the entire nation and its (then and now) growing population.

The law was built with a 25 year sunset, and it was extended once, meaning its set to sunset again on September 30.

Now, I'll make it clear that I hope its extended, but something like this says a lot about a whole host of interesting things.  It makes it clear how inaccurate our recollection of the past is, and how little we understand about the relationship between the states, people and the Federal government is today.

Starting off with the present, our own state is amongst the most libertarian of them all, and generally has a fairly hostile few of the role of the Federal government locally. But that doesn't keep us from taking Land and Water Conservation Fund money or Federal highway funds.  Indeed, we complain if we don't get the highway funds we  think we're entitled to.

With the recreation funds, we have no shoreline at all, so we can't really say that we have an immediate right to any of the money.  It isn't like local oil money.  If we feel that we deserve part of it, as we're part of the whole, well. . . that says something about the local arguments on the Federal domain as well, doesn't it?

Regarding our recollections of the past, and soon to be a subject of another post, there's come to be a belief for some reason that the 1950s were politically "conservative".  I'm not sure of the origin of that belief, but it's widely held, and I suspect it's widely held because of the concept that the entire boomer generation that came of age in the 1960s rebelled against their upbringing during the 1950s.   There's a lot of reason to question that assumption or at least to nuance it, but it isn't really accurate to claim that the 1950s were a Happy Days like era of conservatism.  In fact, the GOP was largely middle to middle left in the era, and the Democrats crowded them for that position.  There were exceptions, but what we really see is that the GOP moved towards the Democrats after World War Two, and the Democrats moved towards the Republicans.  Neither party had any problem with large Federal projects and Federal funding of any kind, reflecting the views that had come up during World War Two.  So, we got stuff like the Land and Water Conservation Fund during a Republican Administration, and again during the 1970s we find that the GOP held the White House except for four years.

I'm not really making a point about the fund, or indeed any of this.  It's just a comment regarding our perceptions.

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