On February 14, 2013 S.338 “The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 2013″ was proposed in the U.S. Senate. This act would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). President Obama’s FY2014 budget proposal also calls for full funding of the LWCF from which the National Park Service would receive $110.4 million, $60.4 million of which would be set aside for use in park land acquisition.
The LWCF was sent to Congress by President Kennedy in 1963 with the purpose of conserving parks, open spaces, and wildlife habitat for the benefit of hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation. LWCF is authorized at $900 million per year to, amongst many functions, make public lands public by securing recreation access, particularly where opportunities for sportsmen and others to access public lands are currently limited or precluded. The $900 million that is authorized to be allocated to the LWCF does not come from tax payer dollars; it comes from a small fraction of the oil and gas leasing fees paid to the federal government for the privilege of drilling offshore. However, since its enactment in 1965, LWCF has only been fully funded once because Congress diverts the money for other purposes. In fact, LWCF funding averages only about one-third of its authorized level. For example, in FY2011 it was funded at a mere $301 million, in FY2012 at only $322 million.
Opportunities to protect fish and wildlife habitat, provide public access for recreation, preserve our nation’s most notable historic and cultural sites, and protect scenic vistas are being lost every day to development. The LWCF’s Federal Land Protection Program includes enabling the acquisition of lands and water within protected forests, wildlife areas, and parks such as Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park. LWCF support is essential to the combined efforts of Voyageurs National Park Association and the National Park Service to acquire the remaining in-holdings in Voyageurs National Park. Last year, LWCF appropriations enabled the National Park Service to complete a purchase of Dove Bay on Rainy Lake, one of 52 private properties within Voyageurs National Park. This was a major accomplishment in our Land Preservation Initiative, our program to complete public ownership of Voyageurs National Park. Voyageurs National Park Association is currently holding 61.55 acres on the Kempton Channel of Rainy Lake. Once the property can be transferred to the National Park Service, structures will be removed, scenic views restored for visitors, and the land and shoreline will be returned to a natural habitat for wildlife. Until this land is made public, it cannot be properly maintained and protected by the National Park Service. LWCF allocations are necessary to completing this and future transactions.
What you can do
Write, call, or email your congressional representatives and senators and tell them to support the full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Donate to VNPA to help our efforts to achieve full-funding of the LWCF and further our Land Preservation Initiative.