Created by Congress in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) helps support land, water and wildlife habitat conservation efforts across the U.S., through voluntary land purchases and the use of conservation easements by federal, state and local governments. LWCF is primarily funded through a small portion of the royalty fees that energy companies pay to develop offshore oil and natural gas resources. Additional funds also come to the program through the sale of surplus federal lands and surcharges on motorboat fuel.
Created over 50 years ago to provide recreational opportunities for all Americans, LWCF also provides funding to individual states that must be matched dollar-for-dollar. Funds are generally used by states to help cost-share planning, acquisition and development of parks, hiking and riding trails and other recreational facilities. LWCF funding has benefited nearly every county in America, supporting over 41,000 projects.
LWCF is currently authorized at $900 million per year through 2018, but this funding level has only been achieved twice in the program’s history. Congress can, and often does, divert some of these funds for other purposes. Each year, through the appropriations process, Congress determines what annual funding levels will be. Federal investments in these types of programs (parks, refuges, trails, recreation areas, etc.) helps leverage state, local and private funds and drives our recreational economy that supports millions of U.S. jobs. According to a recent study by the Outdoor Industry Foundation, hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, and other outdoor recreation activities contribute more than $646 billion annually to our economy and support 6.1 million American jobs. This sector generates $39.9 billion annually in federal tax revenue, as well as $39.7 billion in annual state and local tax revenue.
To date, LWCF has conserved more than 7 million acres of public lands and private working agricultural lands across the U.S. LWCF can support anything from large national forests to local community parks, but Ducks Unlimited generally focuses our efforts on a few key aspects of the program, including, but not limited to:
1) voluntary conservation easements on private working farms and ranches, with Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area
being a top national priority.
2) public land habitat conservation for migratory birds; and
3) increased access for sportsmen and women on public lands.
DU continues to promote these priorities, and along with many partners across the country, is working to build strong bipartisan support in Congress and with Administration officials to reauthorize and fully-fund this important program.