Federal money will flow through Ohio

Areas around the Grand Canyon are being leased to oil and gas drillers, with some of that money coming back to Ohio through a federal grant program known as GOMESA. (Photo by Jane Beathard)

It’s hardly a secret that most environmental groups are aghast at the Trump Administration’s actions toward the nation’s public lands and outdoor recreational facilities. That’s especially true in the West, where I spend a lot of time.

But I spotted a glimmering bit of silver lining to the recent announcement by interior secretary Ryan Zinke about $1.8 million coming to Ohio from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act or GOMESA. The money will go to local communities to improve neighborhood parks and recreational facilities.

As with its sister program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, GOMESA money comes from off-shore oil and gas leases. The Obama Administration had put a moratorium on leasing, considering the danger off-shore rigs can pose to wildlife and shorelines (remember the Deepwater Horizon disaster?).

But the Trump Administration reversed all that and has opened more off-shore areas to leasing.

While those leases pose environmental threats if drilled on, they will generate more and more money for GOMESA and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and consequentially, more money to improve existing state and local parks, trails, and other outdoor facilities, as well as develop new ones.

That is the silver lining. And it’s one many Americans (and Ohioans) will likely see first-hand.

It’s true that all these grants require a local match. But they still make improvements affordable for many smaller towns, counties, and townships that must use their tax money for more pressing matters.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund grew out of the environmental activism of the 1960s – an activism that I am more and more appreciative of as I grow older. The fund was established in 1965 to help local communities improve and expand recreational facilities without using tax money.

Since then, more than $4.2 billion has funded more than 42,000 park and outdoor recreation projects across the country, according to a recent U.S. Department of the Interior press release.

It was money well spent.

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