Federal funds are not needed for wildlife areas

Over the past 50 years, 11 different wildlife areas in Minnesota — from the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge — have received more than $250 million in federal funding, through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The federal program’s aim is to protect natural areas by assisting state and local recreation projects. Yet the fund, established by Congress in 1964, has lived a perilous existence. It is subject to periodic reauthorizations and annual hat-in-hand requests to keep the money flowing.

Earlier this year, Congress voted to reauthorize the LWCF. Now, however, the question of funding is up again.

In April, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, introduced a bill to grant the fund at least some permanency. His measure, now with bipartisan support from 41 co-sponsors, would ensure the program receives $900 million per year — without the need for annual battles over appropriations.

If the LWCF is to continue, it makes sense that it be funded properly, regularly.

But should it be continued?

This year alone, Minnesota has a budget surplus of $1 billion. Minnesota also has a lottery that dedicates fund to the outdoors. Why not use them? If local and state governments want to establish and preserve natural areas, why does the federal government need to be involved? Why must it be involved in everything?

We would prefer the federal government be involved in almost nothing, with most decisions left to state and local authorities. That is the federalism envisioned by our Founding Fathers, after all. It also would be a boon to a broke federal government that soon will not be able to pay its bills.