The following article was first published by The Virginian-Pilot on 15 August 2023.
It is an op-ed I wrote in support of an ongoing collaboration with the LWCF Coalition on behalf of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. In doing so, I represented the Capital Region Chapter where I serve as the vice chair and the Armed Forces Initiative where I now serve as the policy chair on the national advisory board.
Opinion: The Land and Water Conservation Fund benefits our nation, so let’s build on it
A couple takes a long walk along the main road leading into the Great Dismal Swamp on Dec. 2, 2020. (Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot)
By GARRETT ROBINSON | Guest Columnist
August 15, 2023 at 6:05 p.m.
As a proud veteran who served my country for decades and now a leader with Backcountry Hunters & Anglers’ Armed Forces Initiative, I appreciate our nation’s public lands and waters, particularly in Virginia, with its rich history and beautiful, diverse landscapes. Our access to public lands and waters is made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which safeguards the outdoors and outdoor lifestyle here, while providing a vital outlet for active-duty and military veterans to improve their mental health.
Established by Congress in 1964, this bipartisan initiative aims to ensure that future generations can enjoy the outdoors that we hold dear. Through LWCF, we invest in the conservation of our public lands, protect wildlife habitats and water resources and provide recreational opportunities for all Americans.
In Virginia, LWCF has helped preserve and enhance our natural heritage. From the scenic wonders and recreation opportunities of Shenandoah National Park and National Wildlife Refuges such as the Great Dismal Swamp and Eastern Shore of Virginia, LWCF has provided critical funding to protect these valuable areas. It has also safeguarded iconic places such as Spy Rock, the viewshed from McAfee’s Knob along the Appalachian Trail, and Fones Cliffs in the Rappahannock River National Wildlife Refuge, which are important to Virginians and the Indigenous tribes of this region, while drawing tourists from across the country.
Moreover, LWCF ensures that our veterans and active duty service members have access to outdoor spaces that support physical and mental well-being. Many find solace in nature, or in a community of other veterans getting outside together. Whether it is fishing, hunting or hiking, these outdoor experiences supported by LWCF contribute to our well-being and provide a sanctuary for reflection and renewal, not to mention ensuring that active duty members are mentally and physically healthy to serve our nation.
Outdoor recreation also helps drive Virginia’s economy, generating billions of dollars in spending and supporting thousands of jobs. By protecting our natural areas and investing in recreational facilities, LWCF bolsters outdoor recreation; the fund has supported the development of parks, trails, and recreational infrastructure, making outdoor activities more accessible. To fully realize the vision of a robust and permanently funded LWCF, we encourage continued support to maintain and expand investment in our outdoor heritage.
This May, I visited the Virginia delegation and other members of Congress with the LWCF Coalition to encourage our elected leaders to continue to recognize the value of conservation and outdoor recreation. I was honored to meet with 2nd District Congresswoman Jen Kiggans and am grateful for her willingness to support LWCF initiatives. As a fellow veteran, she understands the importance of having well-funded public lands where active duty service members and veterans can recreate. She also supports the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act and we applaud her for fighting for our service members and veterans.
I returned home hopeful that LWCF will continue to be a stalwart source funding recreation and conservation projects that contribute economic benefits to local communities. Investment in LWCF is a commitment to preserve the natural wonders of Virginia, safeguard our heritage and ensure that future generations have the same opportunities to explore and cherish these lands.
As a veteran who has fought to defend the values and freedoms our nation holds dear, I implore my fellow Virginians to join me in championing LWCF and urging our congressional leaders every chance they get to maintain and grow LWCF so that we can honor our past, protect our present, and secure a legacy of conservation and outdoor recreation for generations to come.
Garrett Robinson of Stafford is a retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sergeant, staunch supporter of our nation’s public land heritage. He serves as the vice chair to the Capital Region Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers as well as the Mid-Atlantic region liaison for the Armed Forces Initiative of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.