By Howard Meyerson
LANSING, MI – State and county parks along with other community recreation facilities are expected to benefit from more than $1 million in federal Land and Water Conservation Funds that Michigan received this year. The federal funds are distributed by the Michigan DNR as grants to communities that have applied for the money.
“Michigan has done very well with the program over the years,” said Steve DeBrabander, manager of the DNR’s Grants Management Section. “Michigan has issued more of those grants than any other state.”
LWCF funds are known as “pass-through” dollars. They come primarily from fees paid by oil and gas companies for offshore drilling along with the sale of surplus federal lands and taxes on motorboat fuel. The money is distributed through the U.S. Interior Department to all 50 states. It can be used for recreation planning, acquisition of lands and waters, and facility development for state and local projects.
Communities and agencies applying for the funds are required to put up a 50 percent match.
“It’s been a very successful program,” DeBrabander said. “Every county has received those funds. This year we got 22 applications for a total of $1.8 million, but we have just a little over $1 million and that will be just under $1 million to give out after administrative costs.
“We haven’t made any decisions about projects yet. Those will be announced in October.”
Parks will benefit
The applications for LWCF funding in 2013 include projects in 17 counties. Those include a parking lot at Roethke Park in Saginaw County, a Rotary Park Play area in the City of Manistee, a warming hut at Blueberry Ridge Cross Country Ski area in Marquette County, and boat house at Addison Oaks County Park in Oakland County, among other things.
Local grants are limited to $100,000, DeBrabander said, but grants to state agencies like the DNR are allowed to go higher. The DNR Parks and Recreation division is applying for $400,000 for a toilet and shower building at Fayette Historic State Park.
Michigan has given out 1,752 LWCF grants totaling $129 million since the program’s inception in 1964.
“This funding will help our state make those treasures available to the public now and in generations to come,” U.S. Sen. Carl Levin said in a shared press statement with Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
The two Michigan Senators are among 32 co-sponsors for S.338, the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act of 2013. The federal bill would permanently authorize the fund, establish full and permanent funding at $900 million, and set aside a minimum of 1.5 percent of funding for projects that improve access to federal public land for hunting, fishing and other recreational purposes.
LWCF dollars are also used by the National Park Service, Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management, according to Stabenow.
S.338 was introduced in February 2013 and was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources where no action has been taken.
Michigan received a total of $1,082,691 for 2013 from LWCF. More than $40 million was distributed to all 50 states.
© 2013 Howard Meyerson