By John Vlahakis

The Interior Department has issued a report that has identified 101 conservation projects across the U.S. as part of President Obama’s initiative to protect public lands.  The 101 projects cover two per state and one in the District of Columbia.  Some of the projects presented include an all season trail in Alaska’s Denali National Park to the completion of a 32-mile trail through central Florida.  According to the Interior Department many of the projects have already been launched and could take anywhere from a couple of years to complete to several decades.  The report raises the issue of Congressional funding for these projects, stating that it will have to find most of the funding from other sources instead of the U.S. Treasury.  A departure from past Obama administration initiatives over land and water conversation is that the new initiatives seek input from a variety of sources over these projects.  Interior is soliciting representatives from state, local and non- governmental organizations to provide feedback on the proposed conservation projects.  The approach shows a greater willingness to make this a collaborative process versus a top down decision.  Congress should look at increasing its funding for these conservation projects.  Spending to protect public lands for the enjoyment of future Americans makes sense as our population continues to grow.  Short term spending on these projects will provide needed jobs at the local level.

Photo Credit: John Vlahakis

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