This week President Barack Obama did some budget-cutting but also some budget-allocating. In the case of land conservation, the president was more in favor of allocating than cutting.
Following his announcement for a leaner budget, which included some big cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Obama announced he would be making a major investment it what he called the “America’s Great Outdoors" initiative. The plan is designed to conserve outdoor areas that are in relative proximity to population centers. The idea behind this is to get Americans out of their houses and into nature, where they can exercise, be fit and enjoy some country air. While the plan is certainly not as divisive as Obama’s healthcare bill, or anything else Republicans have opposed, it is still making enemies on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Doc Hastings (R- Wash.), who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, told Politico earlier in the week that the program “made little sense” and that the National Park Service already “faces a multibillion dollar backlog.” Obama’s plan includes a $900 million allocation for the Land and Water Conservation fund, which would be the biggest boost to the program's budget in its nearly 50-year existence — if approved. For most of that time, the fund has relied on oil and gas leasing sales for funding.
Those on the Obama side of this — and by “those” I mean Democrats — argue that without conserving these lands now they will be lost to development. Then there is the argument that more outdoor space in America and more emphasis on exercise may lead to healthier Americans and less costly healthcare bills. While Congress was doing the old back-and-forth on the Obama plan this week, news also came out that two out of three Americans are overweight and that one in three is obese. Those same reports revealed that one-third of Americans are expected to have diabetes by 2050.
This is interesting timing. Some say it’s time to get outside and get in shape. Some say this is not a governmental problem. Studies show that however you slice it, the nation is getting fat and sick. I’m not sure whose problem this is, but I’m going to get outside and enjoy the sunshine while those who talk and debate for a living keep doing so … inside.