In this Week's Bargain Bin: Our National Parks

Here are some fun facts for you to consider: According to the National Park Service, there are currently 4.3 million acres of privately owned land within park boundaries; and another 1.8 million listed for acquisition. The federal agency estimates it would cost $1.9 billion for it to purchase these lands. Now here's the really funny part: It only requested $100 million from Congress for fiscal year 2009.In 1964, Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to "conserve, develop, and utilize" the great outdoors for the "benefit and enjoyment of the American people." Its purpose, in essence, was to serve as the primary source of funding for the land acquisition needs of the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service.

Yet, over the course of its 4-decades old history, Congress has consistently failed to approve the entirety of the LWCF's available funds -- typically $900 million per year from revenue generated from oil and gas leasing of the Outer Continental Shelf. From 1965 to 2006, for example, only $14.3 billion (out of $29 billion) was appropriated for use by the Fund; to make matters worse, any "unused" money is diverted to other federal programs or budget priorities.

The amount appropriated for use in fiscal year 2009 now stands at a record low of $100 million. Fortunately, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCS) has organized a campaign (and released a thorough report), entitled "America's Heritage: For Sale," to raise awareness about the LWCF's lackluster financials -- and urge people to contact their local congressmen.

They've created a neat Google Map mash-up that allows you to see the 10 most affected parks and the parcels of land that are privately-owned and those that have been put up for sale.

See also: ::Our (Not So) Pristine National Parks: 70 Contaminants and Counting, ::Go Play Outside; Nobody Else is

Tags: Conservation

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