Since its formation in 1973, Stanislaus Audubon Society has promoted the conservation of wild birds and their habitats for future generations through education, research and active citizenship. Members of our community are very fortunate in having access to many natural areas in Stanislaus County for the benefit of wildlife and public enjoyment.
An important tool in the acquisition and development of these natural areas is the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Over the last 50 years, the LWCF has helped conserve millions of acres of public land across all 50 states – including national parks, wildlife refuges, historic sites, battlefields, neighborhood playgrounds and recreation facilities.
More than 10 million people nationally visit areas LWCF has invested in each year.
Even more impressive is that LWCF does all of this without using any taxpayer dollars. The fund is supplied with revenues paid to the government from offshore oil and gas drilling. The extraction of one natural resource ends up funding the conservation of land, water and wildlife habitat elsewhere.
In Stanislaus County, the LWCF has invested over $17 million in the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge.
Established in 1987, this refuge consists of 7,000 acres situated where the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and San Joaquin Rivers join in the San Joaquin Valley.
Initially established to protect habitat for the endangered Aleutian Cackling Goose, agreements were made with area farmers to ensure that lands around the refuge remain in private agriculture in order to help protect wintering areas for these geese. These efforts will save the cackling goose from extinction.
Other contributions to Stanislaus County include $450,000 to the Tuolumne River Regional Park for the construction of trails, a pedestrian bridge and a fishing deck. The fund also contributed to the acquisition of Modesto Reservoir, and to the development of East La Loma Park, the Fox Grove Fishing Access on the Tuolumne River, and Ceres River Bluff Regional Park – to name just a few recreational areas.
Unfortunately, this 50-year-old landmark law is due to expire September 30, unless Congress acts to extend the program by passing of HR 502. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has always been a bipartisan conservation plan, resulting in an extensive network of open spaces for camping, hunting, fishing and hiking in every state.
Our Congressman, Jeff Denham, needs to prove that he is willing to speak up for wildlife and public recreation by supporting the extension of this vital program.
Members of the Stanislaus Audubon Society and conservation-minded constituents want to see Denham join the 223 Republican and Democratic House members who understand the importance of protecting wildlife, public outdoor recreational opportunities, access to historical sites, and climate strongholds. We urge Rep. Denham to co-sponsor HR 502, the bill to permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
We are counting on Denham to help save this important conservation funding program.
Its cancellation would have a disastrous effect on lands for public recreation, as well as on habitat restoration for wildlife. We can’t renege on our promise to protect these public spaces.
Jody Hallstrom, of Oakdale, is a veterinarian and conservation chair of the Stanislaus Audubon Society. She wrote this for The Modesto Bee.