Land and Water Conservation Fund: Everything You Need to Know

As the Earth becomes more fragile, the work that is done to protect it is more important now than ever.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a coalition that provides resources to all 50 states. Their goal is to preserve and protect the natural lands and waterways of our country. They also contribute billions to the economy and ensure Americans have access to outdoor recreational activities nationwide.

Yet, only recently has the future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund been secured. Below, you can find out everything you need to know about this fundamental program.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a fund set aside to preserve exactly that, America's land and water. This includes state and national parks, wildlife refuges, and lakes and rivers.

National parks became popular in the 1950s. Seeing the effects of increasing patronage, President Kennedy saw it necessary to preserve them. While in office, he also stressed the importance of the upkeep of our national parks systems.

Throughout the years, the LWCF has also dedicated resources to state and local outdoor recreational endeavors, such as playgrounds and parks.

Every year, millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars are allocated to this fund. But the Land and Water Conservation Fund is unlike many government funds. It is almost completely funded by royalties paid by energy corporations.

These corporations drill for oil and natural gas off the Outer Continental Shelf in America's waters. It seemed only fitting that those who take natural resources give back the wealth to the land taken from.

Funded by large oil and gas companies rather than taxes, it is one of the least costly programs for the American people. Yet, it provides some of the greatest rewards. The preservation of national lands and waterways ensures a future that will provide benefits for years to come.

What Does the LWCF Do?

Have you ever wondered who keeps up with your local running trail? Or where they get the money to preserve the historic battlefield in your town?

The answer is the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund also provides funding for the acquisition of protected lands. These lands are then allocated to national and state parks. This is one of many ways how the LWCF provides major recreational benefits for the American people.

At the same time, they help grow the billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry. This is essential for our country's economic growth.

Without the LWCF, national park funding would be obsolete and our country would not have as many trails, parks, and water systems. Though scarcely recognized, the LWCF provides essential resources to state and local governments. Together they work to preserve the natural wilderness and essential recreational resources.

Challenges

At first, the LWCF was only approved for 50 years. After the 900 million dollar agreement expired in 2015, a temporary agreement was set. This was in an effort to try and preserve the funding of this crucial organization for a few more years. 

Once again expiring in September 2019, the future of land conservation and national parks was uncertain. That is, until the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020. 

900 million dollars of these funds are intended to be allocated to the preservation of national lands and waterways every year. However, the government rarely invested this amount in national land and water. Instead, funds were often allocated elsewhere. For example, to make up for funding deficiencies in other departments.

It is estimated that over 30 billion dollars worth of funds have been wrongly withheld or distributed unfairly. This has led to a backlog of projects for the LWCF. It isn't until the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act that these funds are once again rightfully dispersed to the LWCF.

Great American Outdoors Act

Kennedy promoted the LWCF his last year in office. When Lyndon Johnson came into office, he authorized the act in 1964. Yet, the LWCF was only originally approved for 50 years. Only after letting its original authorization expire in 2015, did Congress approve a temporary extension of the fund.

On August 4th, 2020, President Donald Trump signed into effect the Great American Outdoors Act. This act would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition at 900 million dollars every year.

The permanent commitment to conservation serves as an economic investment. One that also employs 7.6 million Americans with jobs. Even with only 900 million dollars in permanent yearly funding, the LWCF continues to contribute to the park recreation industry. Alone, it is worth over 887 billion dollars to the United State's economy.

The act also claims to pay up to 1.9 billion dollars for 5 years to renovate and improve the state of national lands. 

The Future of Our Lands

There is no way to tell what this act will do for our country in the years to come. But what we do know is that it is expected to provide an economic boost and maintain jobs for almost 8 million Americans.

The signing of this act is meant to guarantee future funding for our national parks, waterways, and state and local recreational resources for years to come. Royalties paid out by oil and gas corporations ensure the American people will not pay for these improvements with taxes, but all are expected to enjoy the benefits.

While the future often seems unpredictable, with The Great American Outdoors Act and through the work of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we can have hope that our country's natural lands will be protected for years to come. 

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