Dear HECHO Community,
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is perhaps the most important piece of federal legislation protecting our nation’s land and water for the last 50 years. The LWCF protects many of our national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and urban and more remote recreation areas across the country, allowing the public to experience these special outdoor places.
But in September, Congress allowed LWCF to expire.
There are bipartisan bills pending that would allow it to be permanently reauthorized before the end of 2018, but Congress must act quickly.
Conserving our land and water is not only important to communities across our nation; it represents a fundamental American value. In November, HECHO went to Washington, D.C. to talk with our Members of Congress about the importance of LWCF. Read about our trip to D.C. on our blog.
While there is still time, please call your representatives and urge them to support reauthorizing the LWCF before it’s too late. If you've never called your representatives, here are some great tips and information on LWCF for you. Let us know you called, how it went, and if you want to stay involved here.
If you need additional motivation to be a part of this movement to #SaveLWCF, in honor of the LWCF, we asked some of our HECHO Board Members to share their favorite places that have benefited from the LWCF in this edition of Enjoying the Outdoors. Read on for their great tips on where to visit this holiday season and throughout the year. And if you had suggestions for our next email, please click on the button below to share where you enjoy the outdoors!
LWCF in Arizona
Hidden Valley via Mormon Trail | Phoenix, AZ
Recommended by Viviana Reyes: One of my absolute favorite hikes ever, Hidden Valley via Mormon Trail, is in South Mountain, an LWCF-funded park in Phoenix, AZ. It's moderate/difficult and about 4 miles. It's a long one and as usual I bring along snacks and plenty of water. My favorite part of this hike is the point where it meets with Hidden Valley. You pass through cave-like rock formations leading to giant boulders and the most beautiful view of the city. I always hang out and relax here, lie on the boulders for a while and just take it all in. Bring a camera and take your time. The largest part of the Mormon trail can be a bit busy, but once you get to Hidden Valley there is really no one around. You can visit the trail anytime now through April. This is the best time of year for Arizona in terms of being outdoors. The weather is perfect! This article lists this trail as one of the best hikes in Phoenix.
Flagstaff Urban Trail System | Flagstaff, AZ
Recommended by Sylvia Huereña: The Flagstaff Urban Trails System (FUTS) offers an incredibly diverse range of experiences all within the urban area of Flagstaff and includes everything from busy streets to canyons, grasslands, meadows and forest. Another of Sylvia's favorite spots is Phoenix’s South Mountain Park, which Viviana recommended (above) as well. With 16,000 acres, it’s actually one of the largest urban parks in the world and includes three mountain ranges – Ma Ha Tauk, Gila, and Guadalupe. The city and surrounding views are spectacular.
Audubon Arizona’s Important Bird Areas | Statewide
Reader Submission: There are currently 45 Important Bird Areas (IBA) in Arizona, and each site “offers something different - from sprawling grasslands, to oak woodlands, open deserts, rivers, canyons, and more,” says Steven Prager of Audubon Arizona and who submitted this wonderful recommendation to HECHO. He says, “[t]hese sites are critical to the ongoing survival of wild bird populations in Arizona. To protect them, Audubon needs the support of their surrounding communities.” In addition to birding, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping, hunting, and fishing! Check out aziba.org to learn more about each of the 45 sites statewide, and feel free to reach out for more information.
We wanted to learn more, and read about the Joshua Tree IBA, which is one of Arizona’s newest IBA. Not to be confused with Joshua Tree National Park (which is in California), the Joshua Tree IBA is located south and east of Wickiup, AZ in Mohave County. It is two and a half hours north of Phoenix and “features easy access to remote camping, the uniqueness of the Joshua tree forest and good birding,” according to a trip report featured on the Arizona IBA blog.
LWCF in New Mexico
Gallinas River Park | Las Vegas, NM
Recommended by Rock Ulibarri: Close to my heart is the Gallinas River Park. Supported by the LWCF, the park has developed into a resource for the whole community, with outdoor space for children, runners, dog walkers and families. In October, I participated in a 2-day community workshop to plan the future design of the park. The downtown river rewinding work at the park has come along beautifully, where you can see graceful meanders and enjoy the sounds of the river flowing. Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance is doing incredible work to foster land stewardship and vitality – both human and natural – for three major watersheds in the region: Gallinas, Sepello and Tecolote. During warmer months (April through October), a magical and affordable vacation spot is Cochiti Recreation Park, in Sandoval County, NM, within the boundaries of the Pueblo de Cochiti Indian Reservation. The park has spectacular views of Cochiti Lake and the surrounding Jemez Mountains. It’s a quiet, family-friendly lake, and great for paddling, fishing and swimming.
LWCF in Utah
Jordan River Parkway | Murray, UT
Recommended by Rep. Mark Archuleta Wheatley: Hawks, Grebes, Canadian Geese, Green-winged Teal, California Quail and Utah’s State Bird, the California Gull, are some of the many species that bird lovers have seen along the Jordan River Parkway near my hometown of Murray, Utah, south of Salt Lake City. A meandering wildlife corridor when settlers first arrived in Utah, the river has enjoyed a renaissance in recent decades as a resource for open space, recreation and conservation. The river is also home to many different species of native wildlife. Deer, beaver, fox, amphibians, reptiles and fish call the area home. It’s a critical resting area for migratory birds traveling from Canada all the way to Central America. Protecting the habitat here is vital to sustaining our transcontinental ecosystems. Many projects are underway now to restore and improve the river’s corridor. A multi-use, 45-mile trail parallels the river all the way up to the Great Salt Lake.
Bonneville Shoreline Trail and Golden Spike National Historic Site | Salt Lake City, UT
Recommended by Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck: My two favorite LWCF locations are the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (BST) -- one of the closest natural habitat getaways for urban residents along Utah’s Wasatch Front – and the Golden Spike National Historic Site. The BST trail snakes the foothills a block or two away from our house in Salt Lake City’s Upper Avenues. We often take our border collie for a trail hike up there, regardless of the season. It’s as enjoyable on a summer morning as it is on a snowy winter afternoon. We often see neighbors and friends along the trail. It’s replete with bike and hiking trails and a number of those side trails take you to some of the smaller peaks along the Front. Another favorite place is the Golden Spike National Historic Site. Although small and fairly remote, it holds particularly fond memories for me. I remember going with each of my children when they were in 4th grade and then learning the Utah history curriculum in school. (If you can make a full day of it, take the time to also drive out to the nearby Spiral Jetty). I remember reading about the Centennial celebration of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in the newspaper back in 1969 and seeing the television news coverage when I was in elementary school, but never visited the site until I accompanied my children’s classes. The site celebrates its 150th Anniversary, planned on and around the official date of May 10, 2019.
Amplifying Our Voices
HECHO Talks Directly to Members of Congress | Washington D.C.
In late November, our mission and our passion came together when HECHO Advisory Board Members from Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah flew to Washington D.C. to speak directly to their members of Congress on the importance of protecting our shared public lands by reauthorizing the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). This is a bi-partisan program funded by royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling. These revenues are used by parks and recreation areas for upkeep and improvements – more than 41,000 projects from town ball parks to city parks to our state and federal parks benefit from the fund.
The legislation that provides the funding authorization expired at the end of September and there is a concern that this outgoing congressional body will not act to continue the funding. We lose every day the LWCF is not funded.
HECHO recognizes the importance of holding our elected representatives accountable and sharing our concerns for our future, and our children. Read more about our trip and see more photos on our blog.
HECHO Series of Facebook Live Videos | Washington D.C.
While we were in D.C. we wanted to keep you updated about what we were doing so we filmed a series of Facebook Live videos for the HECHO community. It was great to spread the word about our work in D.C. as we were doing it, and we hope that these videos explain what is at stake when it comes to LWCF. You can view the videos on our Facebook page or here.
HECHO Advisory Board Member Op-ed | Salt Lake City, Utah
Thank you Utah State Rep. Mark A. Wheatley (and HECHO Advisory Board Member) for calling on our Congressional leaders to get the Land and Water Conservation permanently reauthorized and fully funded this year in this powerful Salt Lake Tribune op-ed:
Commentary: Keep nature within reach by investing in Utah’s parks and trails
By Mark Archuleta Wheatley | For The Tribune
Rep. Rob Bishop has been called a lot of things by the environmental community, but late this session of Congress he defied labels and voiced his support for reauthorizing one of the most important, if underappreciated, conservation laws, the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Bishop’s pursuit of a bipartisan deal to sustain this important program was a watershed moment for a town renowned for gridlock and on an issue that had previously and repeatedly died on the vine due to the congressman’s past opposition.
This important program, which leverages fees on offshore oil and gas development — at zero cost to taxpayers — has invested in and protected more than 41,000 urban parks, open spaces, wilderness areas and other public lands throughout the United States. Click here to read the complete op-ed.
We hope you enjoy spending time with your family in the outdoors this holiday season. Remember to share your favorite outdoor places and activities with us, so we can pass them on to the community.
Wishing everyone a joyous holiday season and new year! We are grateful for our HECHO community.
Send us your recommendations by December 21