What is the Land and Water Conservation Fund?
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (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, among 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 from offshore drilling. However, since its enactment in 1965, LWCF has only been fully funded once, because Congress breaks its own promise to Americans and diverts much of this funding to other uses. In fact, LWCF funding averages only about one-third of its authorized level. For example, in FY’11 it was funded at a mere $301 million, and in FY’12 at only $322 million.
Why is the Land and Water Conservation Fund so Important?
The Land and Water Conservation Fund provides 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 that are being lost every day to development. The LWCF’s Federal Land Protection Program helps enable 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 private properties within Voyageurs National Park from willing sellers.
Recent Legislation and Proposed Funding
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