by Crystal Cockman
A few years back, I went to a program celebrating 50 years of the Land and Water Conservation Fund with then Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Senator Richard Burr at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center in Asheville. I’ve written about the Land and Water Conservation Fund before, which is an important source of funding for expanding national public lands. LWCF derives its funding not from taxes, but rather from royalties paid by private gas companies who are extracting publicly owned oil and minerals from federal waters in the outer continental shelf. It was ironically on the way home from this same trip that I visited a newly acquired US Forest Service access to the beautiful Catawba Falls.
Foothills Conservancy out of Morganton NC worked for several years to obtain a critical access to Catawba Falls. The Falls themselves were on US Forest Service land, but the 88-acre property that provided the only physical access to the falls was privately owned. It was also originally outside of the proclamation boundary of the US Forest Service, which is the area in which they can acquire land. It took an act of Congress to obtain the extension of the proclamation boundary to include this property, before they could even seek the funds for US Forest Service to acquire the tract. [Read more…]