The Land and Water Conservation Fund – why you should care
Last weekend our GIS Coordinator, Matt Rowbotham, headed with his family to one of their favorite parks. They love to run around, dip their toes in the stream, splash, and then hike a bit of trail. On their way through the park Matt noticed something he had never seen before—this sign:
His family’s favorite park exists thanks to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
What is the LWCF?
“Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. National parks like Rocky Mountain, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers and lakes, community parks, trails, and ball fields in every one of our 50 states were set aside for Americans to enjoy thanks to federal funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund”
– LWCF website
This fund has helped to protect millions of acres of land, including the North Country Trail and many of your own favorite parks and public lands. Yet, this fund is about to expire on September 30, unless Congress acts to protect it.
The LWCF has been used in almost every county and in every state. Visit this link for an interactive map that shows you how much LWCF has been invested you your state for local parks, land conservation, and recreation. Visit this link to view the 50th Anniversary Report for the LWCF.
Where does the money come from?
Not from taxpayers.
“Every year, $900 million in royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) are put into this fund. The money is intended to create and protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.
Yet, nearly every year, Congress breaks its own promise to the American people and diverts much of this funding to uses other than conserving our most important lands and waters.
As a result, there is a substantial backlog of federal land acquisition needs estimated at more than $30 billion—including places vulnerable to development such as the Florida Everglades, Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, Civil War battlefields in Virginia and other precious places around the country. State governments also report needing $27 billion in LWCF funds for eligible local parks and recreation projects.”
What needs to happen next?
As of July 22, a bipartisan bill has been proposed in the senate that would permanently reauthorize this important fund. Alan Rowsome, Senior Director of Government Relations for Lands at the Wilderness Society and Co-Chair of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition said,
“This new agreement recognizes the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to jobs, economic prosperity and growth. It is a win for communities across the country that benefit from the economic, cultural and recreational value of America’s public lands and close-to-home recreation. With its commitment to meet our nation’s conservation and recreation needs at the local, state and federal levels through LWCF, as well as addressing the maintenance and upkeep of our National Parks through a separate fund, the agreement sends a strong message to the nation about importance of our shared outdoor heritage. The LWCF Coalition is committed to working with the Chairman and Ranking Member in the coming months to see this historic breakthrough signed into law.”
So why should you care about the Land and Water Conservation Fund?
Because you’ve walked, hiked, played, explored, and enjoyed land that has been protected by the LWCF. To keep this fund going and protect public lands for future generations, please contact your representatives today.
Here’s what the LWCF Coalition recommends:
Urge your Senator to sign onto S.338 and S.890
S.338 is a bipartisan bill that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund before it expires this September. Please ask your Senators to co-sponsor this bill in support of LWCF if they have not already, and thank your Senators for leading the charge for LWCF if they have.
S.890 is a bill that would permanently reauthorize and provide full, dedicated and permanent funding of $900 million annually to the Land and Water Conservation Fund as authorized by Congress, and finally fulfill the promise that was made to the American people almost 50 years ago. Please ask your Senators to co-sponsor this bill in support of LWCF if they have not already, and thank your Senators for leading the charge for LWCF if they have.
Urge your Congressman/Congresswoman to sign onto H.R.1814
H.R.1814 is a companion to S. 338, a bipartisan bill that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund before it expires this September. Please ask your Representatives to co-sponsor this bill in support of LWCF if they have not already, and thank your Representatives for leading the charge for LWCF if they have.
Speak up today, and help protect this fund for future generations. Every family deserves to have a favorite place to play, splash, and hike.
photo credits: top photo, Peter Zelinka; park photo, Matt Rowbotham; hiker in woods, Kedron Rhodes; NCNST emblem, Kedron Rhodes; girl in stream, Matt Rowbotham.