UPPER MOUNT BETHEL TOWNSHIP, NORTHAMPTON COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Time is ticking when it comes to preserving precious properties in the Poconos. Important federal funding is nearing its expiration date, leaving conservationists concerned.
Pristine land in Cherry Valley and parts of the Appalachian Trail are two of many properties protected from future development.
“This is an iconic landscape,” says Megan Zack, PA Office of Conservation Fund.
State, local and private funding help conserve properties across the country, but larger projects depend on federal money through The Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“It’s the most important federal program for protecting open spaces, trails, and parks all across the country,” explains Mark Zakutansky, Appalachian Mountain Club.
Congress regularly renews The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which expires in September.
Environmentalists worry Congress won’t re-approve the fund on time, because it did temporarily expire a few years ago. “These magnificant landscapes are at risk,” Zukutansky adds.
Conservationalists say they’ve come a long way since the fund was established 52 years ago, but there’s still a long way to go.
The goal is to preserve more land and forests to provide additional recreation areas, plus protect wildlife and drinking water.
“Forests capture rainfall, they recharge the ground water, they filter and purify the ground water,” says Bill Rawlyk, Open Space Institute.
Locally, environmentalists want to fill in the gap and aquire properties next to already preserved ones.
“These lands are really rich in natural resources,” Zack adds.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund expires on September 30th.