On the one-year anniversary of floods that devastated communities along Colorado’s northern Front Range, and the fiftieth anniversary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), Colorado Trout Unlimited released a new report documenting the untold story of the connection between the two. UPDATE: The TU report and release was featured in a story from the Public News Service - check it out by clicking here. Senator Udall also specifically referenced the TU report on the floor of the US Senate as part of a speech calling for reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The report, “Land and Water Conservation Fund—A Source of Hope and Help in the Face of Disaster,” details how LWCF has played a vital role in local flood recovery efforts. Created by Congress in 1964 using royalties from offshore oil and gas revenue, LWCF conserves natural resources and enhances outdoor recreation opportunities, including a recent grant to help the town of Lyons in rebuilding the St Vrain Corridor Trail which was destroyed in the September 2013 floods.
At an event releasing the report and commemorating the one year anniversary of the 2013 floods, Colorado TU Outreach Director (and lead report author) Stephanie Scott and Executive Director David Nickum were joined by a distinguished group of speakers including US Senator Mark Udall (who serves on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee that oversees the LWCF program), Colorado Parks and Wildlife State Trails Program Manager Tom Morrissey (the State Liaison Officer for LWCF), Boulder County Commissioner Cindy Domenico, and Town of Lyons Parks Commission member Reed Farr.
“For 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has used a small fraction of royalties from offshore oil drilling to protect millions of acres, including parks, river access, and priceless open spaces for future generations,” said Udall. “The fund also played an essential role helping protect communities after the devastating Big Thompson Flood of 1976. Today it’s playing the same role helping communities like Lyons rebuild in the wake of the September 2013 flood. I will keep fighting to ensure Congress reauthorizes and fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund so it can continue to aid Colorado’s disaster-recovery work now and in the future, as well as preserving our nation’s priceless land and water resources.”
Lyons was especially hard hit by the floods of 2013, sustaining flood damages totaling nearly $50 million—a crippling amount for a community that operates on a budget of less than $1 million. The flood-swollen St. Vrain River devastated not only the town of Lyons, but also most of the major park facilities and the popular St Vrain Corridor Trail. LWCF funds—leveraged with other grants and matching funds—will help Lyons to rebuild and extend the park and trail through the town, making connections to regional trails to Boulder and to Longmont.
“The funds from the LWCF grant will be instrumental in giving us the resources needed to rebuild and extend the Lyons St. Vrain Corridor Trail,” said Farr. “For many Lyons residents and visitors, this trail system is a main arterial serving as a major source of connectivity to neighborhoods, schools, parks, businesses and nearby Boulder County Open Spaces. Having the trail restored and improved will really help bring Lyons back together both physically and emotionally.”
The Trout Unlimited report details past LWCF investments that helped avoid millions of dollars in property damage in the floods of 2013. Following the catastrophic 1976 Big Thompson flood, Larimer County used $1 million from LWCF as well as other matching resources, to acquire 80 key properties along the Big Thompson—compensating families for their loss of homes while creating new park lands and recreation opportunities along the river canyon. This foresight avoided some $16 million in estimated property damage that would have occurred had those homes been rebuilt after the disastrous flood of 1976, while providing outstanding fishing opportunities for an estimated 200,000 angling days each year.
“As our report shows, LWCF is an invaluable tool for communities wanting to enhance their outdoor recreation opportunities including in the face of floods and other natural disasters,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “Some 90 percent of Coloradans take part in outdoor recreation—and we want them to know how important LWCF is to preserving our state’s quality of life.”
Congress is in the process of reauthorizing the LWCF, and bipartisan voices are calling for full funding of the program. These case studies show why the LWCF program is indeed a wise investment that pays significant dividends for communities in enhanced recreation, economic vitality and quality of life.