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Disappointed in energy bill failure | Letter

I have appreciated the Bellevue Reporter’s coverage of the importance of conservation to our region, and specifically the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

I am disappointed in Congress’ recent failure to pass an energy bill, and with it a provision to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Washington’s own Sen. Maria Cantwell championed a provision in the bill to ensure that communities across America have access to funds to protect parks, trails and forests through the LWCF. Unfortunately, the House and Senate failed to find agreement and the energy bill was unable to pass this Congress.

As an Iraq war veteran who fought to protect all things American, including our unmatched outdoor opportunities and natural beauty, I am grateful we have a champion like Sen. Cantwell in our corner.

I recently went to Washington, D.C. to talk about the importance of reauthorizing LWCF. It is the nation’s most important grant program for protecting our parks, wildlife habitat and forests. This is important to vets like myself because studies show people returning from military service, especially combat, need the outdoors to support their mental health and recover from the traumas of war.

The LWCF has invested close to $600 million in Washington state, supporting the outdoor spaces that veterans use for hiking, camping, hunting, fishing and healing. All of us will need to work together to ensure LWCF is reauthorized and fully funded. I urge our delegation to work with the new Congress, administration and stakeholders across the country to find a solution for long-term reauthorization and full funding of the LWCF.

Rick Hegdahl

Vet Voice Foundation, Pacific Northwest director

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