By Marion Filler
Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-11th Dist.) came to Loantaka Brook Reservation in Morris Township on Monday to announce co-sponsorship of a bi-partisan bill to permanently reauthorize the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
“Permanently” is the operative word for environmental groups supporting this bill (H.R. 3195). Although the program began 54 years ago, there never has been a requirement to fully fund it. Congress has diverted an estimated $22 billion to other projects, and nonprofits such as Environment New Jersey say the Garden State, like other states, has been shortchanged.
“This bill will ensure that funds designated for conservation will actually go there,” said Sophia Hull of Environment New Jersey, which recognized the freshman Congresswoman for her advocacy.
Sherrill is co-sponsoring Rep. Jeff Van Drew’s (D-2nd Dist.) bill to dedicate $900 million annually to the LWCF.
Mikie Sherrill at Kitchell Pond, video by Marion Filler for MorristownGreen.com, Nov. 25, 2019:
“This is a very important issue here in New Jersey,” Sherrill told a crowd of environmental organizations and local officials at Kitchell Pond. “In fact, open spaces are probably more critical to our state, the most densely populated state in the nation, than almost anywhere else in the country.”
The photo op came on a day when Republican Larry Casha of Kinnelon announced he would run next year against Sherrill, whose “sole purpose,” he said, is to promote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s national agenda.
Sherrill described how Congress created the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1965 to reinvest revenue from oil and gas royalties to protect the environment.
“I’m co-sponsoring Rep. Jeff Van Drew’s Bill which will guarantee that the LWCF will be fully funded at $900 million dollars annually. Unfortunately in the past, Congress has routinely underfunded this program. But you should know that your entire New Jersey delegation is co-sponsoring this legislation because we know just how critical it is to work together on these issues,” Sherrill said.
While noting that New Jersey leads the way in large projects such as wind turbines, she said conserving ecosystems such as Loantaka is equally important.
Flanked by Dave Helmer, director of the Morris County Park Commission, and Elliott Ruga, policy director of the New Jersey Highlands Commission, Sherrill added that Morris County is lucky to have an 18,704-acre park system visited by more than three million people each year.
Mayors Tim Dougherty of Morristown, Jeff Grayzel of Morris Township and Robert Conley of Madison were on hand, as well as Joseph Basralian of the Chatham Township Open Space Committee, and Committee members Cathy Wilson and Mark Gyorfy of Morris Township.