This week the Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law with bipartisan support. The act secures funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and guarantees money for public land acquisition and conservation.
Given the fact that we list many unique landscapes that adjoin national parks and are within national forests, this funding mechanism may provide an opportunity to protect these conservation properties.
What is the Land and Water Conservation Fund?
The LWCF was established by Congress in 1964 and takes money from the federal government’s offshore oil and gas revenue, and puts it in a fund for conservation programs. The fund is used for state programs, as well as federal land management agencies, like the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, to acquire and expand access to public lands.
How does the fund pay for?
This program allows these agencies to provide for:
- Recreational areas, trails, and waterways for paddling, hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching
- Enhancing access to national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands
- Preserving historic battlefields and cultural sites
- Safeguarding rivers, watersheds, water supplies, and clean water
- Conserving working forests
- Voluntary conservation of private lands, such as farms and ranches
- Preserving natural areas and wildlife habitat
- Creating and improving state and local parks
- Supporting local economies and jobs through increased outdoor recreation
Why was the Great American Outdoors Act needed?
Before the Great American Outdoors Act, the fund was at risk of not being fully funded. The act now guarantees that $900 million a year is allocated to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and provides up to $9.5 billion over five years to begin clearing up a maintenance backlog at national parks and other federal lands.
The Benefits of the LWCF Investments
These investments provide many benefits for local communities by:
- Conserving natural areas, wildlife habitat and open space from urban parks to large landscapes
- Improving access for sportsmen and recreationists on federal, state, local, and private lands and waters
- Stimulating local economies and jobs supporting tourism and outdoor recreation-sectors
- Preserving wetlands, forests, and watersheds ensuring clean and adequate water supplies in the most cost-effective manner
- Streamlining federal land management by improving access, consolidating ownership, and reducing management and firefighting costs
- Building rural partnerships to keep ranchers and farmers on the land, and promotes sustainable, working forests, while maintaining wildlife habitat and open space
- Protecting of treasured cultural and historical sites such as civil war battlefields commemorating our national heritage
- Providing state and local grants to support community parks, trails, recreational access sites, and open spaces – promoting active, healthy lifestyles and gets kids and families outdoors
The Land and Water Conservation Fund plays an integral role in the conservation and maintenance of our nation’s public lands, and the Great American Outdoors Act now secures the fund’s future.