LWCF is key to public access opportunity, and will need your support once Congress gets back to normal activity
By Bethany Erb – Pheasants Forever Washington, D.C. Government Affairs Representative
Public lands have provided an invaluable resource for Pheasants Forever members, and their families and friends, over the past few weeks. During this time of uncertainty, public lands have offered a place to exercise, relax, work our dogs and let our kids play.
The PF/QF government affairs team works in D.C. and our state capitols to promote and enhance public lands and access to them, and we’d like to share with you more about some of the key conservation programs involved.
This week we will look at the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
What is the LWCF?
Congress created the LWCF in 1964 to use revenues from the depletion of one natural resource -- offshore oil and gas -- to support the conservation of another precious resource -- our land and water. 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. However, most years roughly half of the $900 million is appropriated to this fund. Unfortunately, much of the funding goes to uses other than conservation.
LWCF money is intended to protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.
LWCF also provides grants for forests, wildlife habitat, critical drinking water supplies and battlefield restoration. Hunters should be aware that LWCF funds are also instrumental in opening access to secluded public areas.
LWCF dollars are administered by the U.S. Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture and state agencies. Grants known as “Section 6 Grants” that are used in Forest Legacy, National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services easements and acquisitions. are funded in part by LWCF.
What Does LWCF Do in Your State?
LWCF has funded a remarkable number of projects in every state. You might not realize that your favorite recreation site is an LWCF project! Look here for specifics in your state: https://www.lwcfcoalition.com/tools.
Places like The Eleven Point Wild and Scenic Riverway in Missouri, Cimarron National Grasslands in Kansas, The Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota and Potato Creek State Park in Indiana, are LWCF-funded sites, just to name a few.
Because timing is everything. Shortly before the COVID-19 crisis, Senate leadership and the White House stated support for full and permanent funding for LWCF. That means LWCF would no longer be subject to annual appropriations and therefore receive its full $900 million per year, every year.
Why Does LWCF Matter So Much?
LWCF is included in a package called “The Great American Outdoors Act.” This Act also addresses the maintenance backlog funding for America’s national parks and on other public lands.
We remain optimistic that this Act will pass when the Congressional cycle normalizes. Once again, we’ll ask for your help with calls and emails to Senators when the timing lines up for your strong grassroots support, which helps make the difference in passing key conservation legislation like this.