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Celebrating America’s Premier Conservation Program

14 Jul 2014  |   Phoebe Long

Tags: Public Lands

Mt. Rainier National Park, a scenic waterway in Louisiana, and a battlefield in North Carolina sound like a disparate list. They are vastly diverse in terrain, varied in location, and have different recreational values. However, they share a common factor. All three of these places have received money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a program that helps fund anything from critical public lands to Civil War sites to city ball fields. LWCF is a simple concept: use money raised from the taking of one resource to help protect another.  Funds are collected through small contributions from oil and gas drilling on the outer continental shelf and distributed by the Department of the Interior partly to states to help bolster their in-state outdoor recreation economy.

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. In order to celebrate 50 years of LWCF, raise awareness, and bolster support for the fund, leaders from Department of the Interior embarked on a national tour spanning from Alabama to Alaska during the week of July 7. This past week, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has been travelling all over the country to promote LWCF and the importance of the fund to America’s outdoor tradition. She kicked off the week with a visit to Fort Worth, Texas, where she made an announcement that LWCF will send $43.38 million spread across all 50 states to fund state selected projects. 

On Thursday, July 10, Secretary Jewell travelled to Richmond, Virginia to make a second announcement. There she announced a new $400,000 project to acquire the Gaines’ Mill battlefield in Eastern Virginia, and expand the battlefield into the Richmond National Battlefield Park.  The addition of 285 acres to this park enhances recreation and historical activities. In addition, Neil Kornze, Director of the Bureau of Land Management; Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael Connor; and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe attended events in Oregon, Florida, and Alaska. They discussed how LWCF had improved those areas, and planned future projects.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is vital to outdoor recreation in America. Every county across the nation has been the recipient of LWCF funding. The fund is responsible for the creation of over 41,000 projects nationwide. LWCF creates jobs and provides outdoor enjoyment for American citizens and tourists alike. It helps protect streams for fishing, swimming, and helps provide safe drinking water for residents. 

However, the future of LWCF is at risk. In September 2015, the fund is set to expire unless there is Congressional reauthorization. If LWCF does not receive reauthorization, many state economies - which are bolstered by their parks and waters - will be impacted. Currently, LWCF is meant to receive $900 million every year from oil and gas drilling companies. However, only once in its history has it been fully funded. More often than not, the bulk of the funds meant for LWCF are diverted elsewhere by Congress and spent on things other than conservation. A draft fiscal 2015 spending bill in the Interior and Environment Appropriations subcommittee proposed $152 million for LWCF, less than half of the enacted budget for FY2014. This low allocation will be detrimental to LWCF and American public lands. In order to keep our lands and waters clean and beautiful, LWCF needs to be reauthorized.  Contact your members of Congress here to urge them to support the Land and Water Conservation Fund. 

(Photograph found on Curt Smith Flickr)



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