Congressman urges Congress to permanently fund land & water conservation fund

Tuesday, August 20, 2019
News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC at 7

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Congressman Joe Wilson was in Aiken today. He's urging Congress to permanently fund the land and water conservation fund, a program that conserves lands and improves outdoor recreation.

“These public places are among our community's most treasured assets and the broad bipartisan support for the bills shows that public places are about people. Not about politics,” said Wilson.

All existing projects, like Riverview Park, are safe. If the fund loses its support, we might have to say goodbye to future conservation or outdoor recreation projects.

“I used to bring my children out here in the summer and we'd swim all afternoon in the pond over there,” said Harry Shealy.

Harry Shealy has lived in Aiken County for more than 40 years. Throughout his whole life, he says he's enjoyed outdoor spaces funded by the land water conservation fund.

“As a child, we didn't have a pool. And we didn't belong to the country club. If we wanted to swim, we usually had to find public places,” said Shealy.

Chances are if you've been to places like Aiken State Park, Riverview Park, or even some neighborhood playgrounds and baseball fields, you too have enjoyed the work of the land water conservation fund.

“These places are important. Nature is important for human beings. We need nature,” said Shealy.

Back in March, Congress voted to reauthorize the fund for good. Congressman Joe Wilson says it's a step in the right direction, but until the fund receives guaranteed money, it won't be enough.

“This crucial program has invested more than $294 million to protect South Carolina's great corridors and historic sites,” said Wilson.

The fund is supposed to receive $900 million from the government every year. But in its entire existence, it has only actually received that amount twice.

“We have a unique opportunity to establish permanent and dedicated funding for this program that's free from political manipulation and political whims,” said John Tynan, with the conservation voters of South Carolina.

The Congressman notes that the fund is about more than recreation. He says outdoor recreation generates over $16 billion in consumer spending each year and creating over 150,000 jobs for South Carolina.