Here in Maine, we are fortunate to have iconic landscapes and recreation areas that draw visitors in, along with a vibrant network of state parks, land trusts and private conservation lands that all Maine residents can enjoy. For me, Maine has been an incredible place to call home, raise my family and start a business.

My company, Chimani, builds a mobile app dedicated to helping people better experience our national parks here in Maine, and throughout the country. Today, if someone is going to one of the 418 National Park System sites in the U.S., they will likely use the Chimani app.

A few weeks ago, I had a unique opportunity to give back to these special places. I went to Washington, D.C., to talk to Maine’s congressional delegation about the significance of access to public lands and how to create more opportunities for land conservation both in Maine and across the United States.

I am talking about America’s most important bipartisan legislation to conserve irreplaceable lands and improve outdoor recreation throughout the country – the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Passed in 1965, this fund takes a small portion of revenue made from offshore drilling fees and has supported 42,000 projects across the country, ranging from small city parks to preserving thousands of acres of working forestland – at zero cost to taxpayers.

Nearly every community in Maine has been touched by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, from the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and Katahdin Iron Works, to Riverside Park in Fort Kent and the Haley Athletic Fields in York. The proposed Portland Landing Waterfront Park is a potential recipient of Land and Water Conservation Fund money.

Beyond our state, the program has supported projects in 97 percent of counties in America. The Land and Water Conservation Fund support provides for a broad spectrum of recreation opportunities – from permanently protecting private land within our national parks, to helping local land trusts leverage state funding to protect their communities’ special places, to creating neighborhood parks, trails and opportunities to grow and diversify local economies.

This program is about land and water, but it is really about people. It’s about our quality of life, both personally and in the business community. Over the past few decades, the outdoor recreation industry has quietly become an enormous American economic engine, contributing $887 billion to our economy in 2017 alone. In Maine, this translates into $8.2 billion in consumer spending and over 76,000 jobs.

The outdoor industry is a huge economic driver and engine for our nation and our state, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund is critical fuel for that engine. The continued growth of this sector and the vibrancy of outdoor opportunities depend on continued smart investment, which is what LWCF provides.

So if LWCF has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, why does Congress allow LWCF to remain expired? Nearly $180 million intended for conservation has been lost because of the lapse in authorization for this program since September. Why are projects and negotiations on hold? Why is there so much uncertainty about one of the most successful conservation programs in our country, which has so much support from both parties?

It is not too late to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but the clock is ticking. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin have all said they support the Land and Water Conservation Fund. We need their leadership more than ever to ensure that common sense prevails in the halls of Congress. We need Congress to stop talking and to act: to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

To save this program, we need Mainers to pick up the phone and call your members of Congress and ask them to pull out all the stops to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund now. Some things seem small in the high drama of Washington these days, but these small things matter to real people and real businesses. Mainers expect results – a breath of fresh air for all of us at the end of a long year.


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