What is the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)?
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was established in 1965 by Congress as a bipartisan commitment to invest in our natural areas, working lands and historic and cultural heritage, and to increase access to recreational opportunities for all Americans. The Fund has permanently protected some of America's most cherished natural and cultural treasures, including the Grand Canyon National Park, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Gettysburg National Military Park. The program has funded the creation or improvement of local recreation facilities, such as ball parks and urban trails across the nation. The LWCF has also helped farmers and ranchers protect their land with conservation easements and saved some of America's richest wildlife areas for hunting and fishing.
Despite this impressive track record of success, Congress has continually diverted LWCF-designated funding away from the program. Every year, $900 million from the oil and gas drilling lease proceeds are supposed to be dedicated to the LWCF. But the full funding of $900 million promised by Congress has been reached only once since 1965, with Congress diverting as much as $17 billion of the Fund's dedicated revenue for projects unrelated to conservation or recreation. That funding hit its lowest point, $130 million, in Fiscal Year 2008. Underfunding of LWCF has resulted in a backlog of state and federal projects across the nation.