I believe that natural places have the power to heal our dis-ease with life and to restore our perspective on what really matters. Places are why I started this blog. Recently I found myself in a strange, disorienting place: Washington DC. And rather than walking a pine-needle path, I was wearing out my shoes on the hard floors of the Philip Hart Senate Office Building and other government buildings. Our Capitol no longer stands in much regard, as many of us are frustrated with the scandals, partisan bickering, and inaction that seems to define the American democracy in the early 21st century. Is there a cure? Perhaps place, and a common identification with nature, offers a beneficial treatment to our dysfunction.
|My family’s 1971 visit to Congressman Charles Chamberlain|
This trip to Washington was not my first trip. When I was a boy, my family took me on the obligatory tour and I still carry with me a youthful, and perhaps naive, view of the seat of our government. Call me romantic, but I am moved by the statues and memorial to our founding fathers, the grand buildings of white marble, and the flags of every state on frequent display. Like being in nature, I feel ennobled amongst ceremonial architecture and am often awed by the history around me.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund was the cause that took me back to the Capitol, and I was there on behalf of The Nature Conservancy to seek re-authorization of this legislation that has done so much to preserve and protect places across our country, all without costing taxpayers anything. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) recycles the proceeds of oil and gas leases on federal offshore lands to fund the purchase of land for public use. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell recently called it a “brilliant piece of legislation” for the work it has done saving natural places. Sadly, the legal authority for this 50 year-old law recently lapsed, victim to dysfunction in Congress.
In Michigan, LWCF has provided the majority of funding for our two National Lakeshores, Sleeping Bear and Pictured Rocks, but the funds go well beyond national parks. The $322 million in LWCF funds directed to the Great Lake State have gone to places as diverse as Huron National Forest, the Brighton State Recreation Area, Lake Lansing Park, River Raisin National Battlefield, and the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.
greeted by posters of classic “big letter” postcards from the places in his northern Michigan District. Congressman Dan Kildee spoke passionately about the City of Flint and the necessity of protecting the water upon which all depend. Every office has some photo of a beautiful place in Michigan. And staffers from all 11 offices (four Democratic, and seven Republican) we visited recounted some affection for their hometown park, favorite hiking place, or family vacation home.
|Staff from The Nature Conservancy join me in meeting with my Congressman, John Moolenaar, who has signed a letter of support for passage of the Land and Water Conservation Fund|
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