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Interior Dept. Reverses Trump-Era Change To Conservation Grants After N.H. Outcry

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The U.S. Interior Department is rolling back a change to a major conservation grant program that had raised concerns among New Hampshire lawmakers.

The change, issued by the Trump administration on its last day in office, limited states’ ability to set their own priorities for outdoor recreation grant spending under the long-running Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF.

Gov. Chris Sununu and New Hampshire’s congressional delegation asked the Biden administration to reverse the change.

State parks officials worried it would block upcoming capital projects like a new sewer system for Mount Washington State Park and upgrades at Cannon Mountain.

Now, Biden's Interior Department is rescinding the controversial change, which it says “needlessly inhibits availability of LWCF funds to State assistance programs and Federal land acquisitions and is not mandated by any existing statutory or regulatory requirement.”

“We look forward to further strengthening this successful program to ensure that all communities – from hikers and sportsmen to urban and underserved communities – have access to nature and the great outdoors,” Interior Deputy Assistant Secretary Shannon Estenoz said in a statement.

Sununu and the state’s members of Congress applauded the move, as did Sarah Stewart, commissioner of the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. She said the reversal will let her agency proceed with planned state and local projects that meet previously approved priorities, focused on outdoor recreation infrastructure.

Other advocacy groups, including the Hispanic Access Foundation, said the rollback will especially ensure the LWCF can benefit urban parks and other outdoor spaces in underserved communities.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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