As a member of the Maine Legislature, I had the opportunity to pass legislation to allow all veterans to visit our state parks free of charge.

After coming back from a deployment or a set of orders, being able to relax and enjoy our public lands with family and friends is an important and wonderful part of coming home. It certainly was for me when I returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.

To my dismay, while I was serving in Afghanistan last month, I learned that the Trump administration and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke had removed the Land and Water Conservation Fund from the federal budget. Our beloved parks, forests, monuments, wildlife refuges and over 40,000 state and local park projects are now in danger. This directly affects Maine, as we receive over $900,000 to support our public lands and drive our economy.

Funding comes from taxing oil and gas extraction – not from taxpayers. For more than 50 years the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been reauthorized with bipartisan support. A Bureau of Economic Analysis study found that the outdoor recreation economy is growing at 3.8 percent.

Every $1 of LWCF funds invested results in a return of $4 in economic value. Time is running out before the fund expires next month. U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, please urge your congressional leadership to publicly call for a vote to reauthorize the LWCF. A majority of Congress supports reauthorization – we need leaders to step up and allow a vote.

Alexander Cornell du Houx