I have lived much of my life in Minnesota and feel blessed to have such easy access to the wonderful rivers, lakes and parks in our state. I can easily put my boat on the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and spend an afternoon pulling in bass, walleye or pike. Or my family and I can take a short drive and be hiking and camping at any of our fine state parks and public lands, including Fort Snelling State Park and the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. We also love taking our 2-year-old to places in the city such as Boom Island Park in Minneapolis and Crosby Farm Regional Park in St. Paul, where he is free to engage in unstructured play time away from the bustle of the city but still close enough to make it home by nap time. My hope is to get him to love the great outdoors and the array of experiences it can offer as much as I do.

One thing that all of these places have in common is that they were supported by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. That important federal program has given the state of Minnesota more than $252 million since it was instituted five decades ago to create parks, increase access for hunting and fishing, build hiking and biking trails and support wildlife refuges. In addition to supporting all of the parks I've just named, it's also helped protect the Boundary Waters, Voyageurs National Park, the Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge and much, much more.

Earlier this year, Congress took the important step of permanently reauthorizing this beloved conservation fund. Unfortunately, Congress did not include a full funding provision. The Land and Water Conservation Fund — which gets its money from offshore oil tax revenues, at no cost to taxpayers — is entitled to receive $900 million every year. Unfortunately, Congress usually diverts much of that money for non-conservation projects. In its 54-year history, the LWCF has had more than $22 billion diverted from its funds and has been fully funded only once.

Fortunately, there is a solution. A full-funding bill has just been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. It will take the politics out of funding this critical conservation program. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith have signed on as co-sponsors, as has Rep. Ilhan Omar. Now it's time for Rep. Betty McCollum and the rest of the Minnesota delegation to step up and support America's most successful conservation program. Ensuring that the Land and Water Conservation Fund can reach its full potential is the best way to make sure that Minnesota's beautiful outdoor treasures will be enjoyed for generations to come.

Brad Gausman, Minneapolis

St. Louis Park messed up — fine. But don't forget its successes.

As a resident of St. Louis Park, I do not agree with the majority of my City Council members who voted to remove the Pledge of Allegiance from their regular council agenda, but I am puzzled by the level of state and national news coverage this issue is getting and disturbed by the grandstanding of people suggesting that the council is not listening when a future hearing has already been announced ("Sparks fly over pledge removal," front page, July 9).

St. Louis Park goes out of its way to support neighborhood organizations and to engage neighborhood leaders in policy discussions. When neighbors express concerns, the council has often asked for more time to make sure that it does not make decisions without giving people a chance to be heard. This well-documented history has not made the newspaper, radio or TV coverage.

Will the press be back to cover our community when we expand affordable housing, add new bike and pedestrian options or increase our commitment to fighting climate change? Will we get credit for our efforts revitalizing small-business areas or engaging new citizens? Can a positive spin on local government be "newsworthy"?

Our council, staff and citizens do not always agree, but too often the media only pays attention when there is a fight. I trust my local elected representatives are listening on this and many other local issues.

Matt Flory, St. Louis Park
• • •

It's too bad we don't pay as much attention to our actions as we do to our words. Sure, the Pledge of Allegiance — its words and the principles those words represent — is important. But if we don't act on those words and principles, we make them cheap, empty, meaningless.

It's easy to put your hand over your heart and say what everybody else says when they say it. It's much harder to take a real stand when confronted with real threats to democracy, especially when fellow citizens fall silent. If you truly want to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance, then say something and do something the next time you see our most precious principles ignored.

Steve Schild, Winona
• • •

Why all this hullabaloo over the Pledge of Allegiance in St. Louis Park? It is controversial with its "under God" phrase, and the "liberty and justice for all" is just not working. Why not substitute the Preamble to the Constitution instead? All could stand, face the flag and then have the Preamble read for all to hear.

David Conradi-Jones, Shoreview

More cars (and map apps) coming

The ongoing dialogue about traffic on Minnehaha Parkway has been overlooking a very real and growing problem. I've lived on East River Parkway just south of Franklin Avenue for over 40 years. On snowy winter days when driving is bad, I'm used to seeing northbound traffic backed up during the morning rush hour. But never during the afternoon rush hour. However, one snowy afternoon last winter, a check on the Minnesota Department of Transpportation's website showed a half-mile-long backup. At the same time, traffic on Franklin Avenue from East River Parkway all the way back to University Avenue was barely moving. Something's changed.

Planners in Los Angeles figured this out. They were seeing growing traffic volumes through their parks system. Looking for an explanation, they discovered that it was attributable to the rapidly growing use of mapping systems like Waze, Google Maps and others. These systems are designed to find the fastest way to get you from Point A to Point B. And they were diverting a lot of traffic off of L.A.'s notoriously congested freeways through its parks, which was slightly faster. Ideally, these systems would direct traffic to freeways, but if they're congested, any other road will do. If a parkway is slightly faster, so be it. And if the street you live on is slightly faster, so be it.

In the Twin Cities, planners at our Metropolitan Council are forecasting some 273,000 new households between 2020 and 2040. As a region, we're currently averaging two cars per household. So, under a business-as-usual scenario, we can expect to see over half a million more cars on our already congested roadways in a little over 20 years. It seems inevitable that a lot of those cars will be on our parkways and even on the street where you live.

John DeWitt, Minneapolis

Would you still want conscience clauses if they could apply to you?

How passionately a recent letter writer advocates for doctors to have the right to deny patients abortions, sterilizations and other procedures — medical procedures that he is not likely to ever need ("As a doctor, you've still got rights," July 9). This legislation will impact women and the LGBTQ community disproportionately. When the letter writer stands up for the right of physicians to deny patients blood transfusions — something he might actually need — his opinion will have more weight.

Julie A. Risser, Edina

Her right to protest, yours to object

I think the letter writer who objected to (his words) the "political statement" made by U.S. soccer player Megan Rapinoe in the World Cup matches ("Politics distract from the game," July 9) should realize that her freedom to act as she did mirrors his freedom to object to her statement.

While I may or may not agree with Rapinoe, I thought she handled herself in a very dignified manner by not making a spectacle of herself: She stood quietly while the anthems were played and respected the actions of everyone else around her.

Perhaps the gentleman's objection is itself a political statement. And, perhaps he should be thankful that, in this country, we're all free to make them ... even if we disagree.

Jim Stromberg, North Oaks

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